Automation was one of the key themes of this year’s Business Travel Show Europe, which is no surprise given the challenges that the industry has faced since the onset of the pandemic. Many of the speaker sessions at the show described how daily tasks have become more complex and time-consuming for agents and corporations, and how workloads have increased as they have tried to stay on top of ever-changing travel information from around the world.
The labor shortage that emerged during the pandemic – and which continues to be an issue– has exacerbated the situation and made it difficult to cope flexibly with these new challenges. Many travel companies struggle to find and retain talent – due to a mass exit from the industry – making it difficult to build strong teams.
Richard Baker, Chief Commercial Officer at Inspiretec, reinforced this idea in a ‘tech huddle’ at the show, where he highlighted how operators are under more pressure than ever – reduced team sizes, coupled with post-COVID customer wariness and increased schedule changes have led to a real operation pinch point that many are turning to technology to relieve.
The message at the show was consistent – these changes brought about by the pandemic have increased the need for travel companies to be more agile and adapt quickly to new situations. They are therefore focusing more on products and processes that can satisfy customers’ new needs and give them renewed confidence in the travel experience. It is essential to make travel as easy as possible for customers – regardless of the circumstances. To efficiently manage the new world of travel and to cope with its unpredictability, travel companies need to act fast, but take a long-term view to optimizing their processes and systems.
In a panel titled ‘Fostering Innovation Through Lab Culture,’ President of Sabre Labs, Sundar Narasimhan and Joshua Ryan-Saha from innovation hub, Traveltech, discussed how best to drive innovation in a rapidly changing world, and how collaboration is essential in order to drive the industry forward. Among the tech trends that they identified as key in today’s market, they highlighted automation, its role in resolving issues that the travel industry faces today and the resulting impact on traveler experience. For example, a current barrier to travel may be the long security lines that many are experiencing. By removing friction through intelligent use of data and automation, there would be a positive impact on the travel experience, and ultimately on revenue generation.
This idea was further supported in a keynote session on ‘Investing in the Future of Corporate Travel,’ delivered by Sarah Sheppard, Senior Director Global Product Management at Sabre. Sarah shared an overview into how Sabre is investing to enable the creation, sales and servicing of truly intelligent, traveler-centric experiences. This includes enhanced automation tools to maximize efficiency in the servicing area, allowing to expand self-service and elevate customer experience above modern-day standards.