The many apps of travel

It is sometimes easy to forget how technology has impacted the way we travel. We're so used to real-time directions or using smartphones to board a plane. It’s hard to even remember life before online bookings when business travelers would need a briefcase simply to store their itinerary. Now, some travelers don't even know where their hotel is located until landing at the destination! Information is only a fingertip away, after all.

And yet, even with all the breakthroughs over the past 20 years, technology hasn’t matured to the point where travelers expect it to be. Imagine booking a flight, and the program already knows all your preferences, from the type of upgrades you prefer to the transportation you usually pick to the hotel loyalty points you like the most. That’s what the customer wants and where technology should move.

What if there was just one?

Right now, most travelers use a wide variety of travel-related mobile apps during their trip. According to the Digital Business Traveler research released by the GBTA Foundation and Sabre, the five most popular travel apps used in North America are for airlines, lodging, ground transportation, online booking and restaurants. Within each of these categories, there are multiple apps that serve different use cases. From brand.com to discovery, travelers turn to different apps to accomplish specific tasks.

So what if there was a meta-app, a business travel app that included all uses required by the business traveler?

Here’s what it would need in order to offer enough personalization for the business traveler:

#1: A way to book

Customized booking options would automatically load when a customer makes reservations. When travel disruptions happen, the app would provide the ability to make booking changes pre-trip and in-trip.

Say a business traveler earns two times more points staying at a Hilton, their preferred hotel. Or say a corporation has a negotiated rate with a specific hotelier. These preferences and policies would be noted along with other preferred upgrades. They would then be offered for the flight, hotel and car bookings. The app would seamlessly book everything — flight, hotel and transportation — with one click. And all in policy with preferred partners, of course!

#2: A way to organize the itinerary

Once the flight is booked and the itinerary planned, all the information would automatically sync to the client’s business calendar. This would allow the traveler to see everything in one place. Plus, when updates come along, the traveler would receive messages and alerts with the changes delivered to their mobile device. Upcoming events or other local activities would also populate.

#3: A way to provide important messages when needed

In some locations, information can be scarce if inclement weather, a natural disaster or political unrest hits. Automated, accurate and relevant security alerts are sent to traveling employees with an option to “check-in” and request assistance if needed — all managed on their mobile device. This allows companies to proactively locate and communicate with traveling employees. It also gives employees peace-of-mind while traveling, leading to better work.

#4: A way to keep track of expenses

Tracking business receipts hasn't really caught up with technology. But in this tool, when paying by phone, a virtual card is sent to a supplier that’s only good for a single transaction. This virtual payment provides security without the hassle of expense reporting. Then, the app automatically adds the receipt to the business traveler’s corporate system for reporting expenses. That way, once the trip is over, all of the expenses are in a form that can be reviewed and submitted with a click.

If not now, then when?

Thankfully, seamless and scalable travel solutions powered by booking behavior and preferences are becoming more of a reality. Technology, when applied across the full travel value chain, minimize travel disruptions. As technologies such as the Internet of Things makes its way into airports and hotels, traveler friction will be drastically reduced.

Meeting the expectations of a more demanding business traveler presents new challenges to all travel suppliers. But meeting these challenges opens up opportunities for increased traveler satisfaction and greater operational efficiency. After all, we're building the future, today!

Sabre: How Retail is Transforming Travel