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Here’s what technology the digital business traveler actually uses – and how they use it

Global differences between travelers highlight just how cultural preferences define expectations of travel technology. Within this understanding are several key insights for those across the travel management ecosystem.

What travelers are using: supplier apps

The primary reason to use travel apps is for information. Travelers are checking flights, getting boarding passes, checking into hotels and navigating the destination. Travelers usually complete these tasks on supplier apps, which have proven sticky with today’s business traveler. This is in contrast to apps provided by a business traveler’s own company.

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Travelers are using a variety of single-use apps today, relying on individual supplier apps to complete a specific task. The list of different kinds of apps is long, meaning that a traveler has to download several travel apps at once.

Up to this point, it has been challenging for travelers to complete multiple activities from a single app. This leads to a serious discussion about what the perfect business travel app would look like.

There are also two outliers worth mentioning: Germany and the Nordic countries. Each vary significantly from the median when it comes to using travel apps. A surprising 1 in 4 surveyed in the Nordics do not use travel apps, while 1 in 5 of those in Germany do not use any travel apps.

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Managed travelers fare worse

Among travelers working for a company with a travel policy, booking flights and hotels are also two of the most popular uses of travel apps. At the same time, fewer than 20 percent of travelers globally use itinerary management or TMC-created apps.

Fewer than 20 percent of travelers globally use itinerary management or TMC-created apps

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This should concern travel managers and TMCs, as it indicates bookings through OTA or supplier channels. These purchases might be out-of-policy, and might not appear within the travel management system.

What travelers aren’t using: payments

Digital payments remain in the minority. In each country surveyed, fewer than 15% of business travelers have used mobile payments or e-wallet systems. There are definitely infrastructure issues standing in the way of more rapid adoption. After all, it’s hard to pay with your phone if the merchant doesn’t support it!

Fewer than 15% of business travelers have used mobile payments or e-wallet systems in North America and Europe.

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As technology catches up over the next few years, business travelers are primed to increase use of digital payments. In most countries, travelers were “likely” or “very likely” to use mobile payments if available.

As more millennials enter their peak business travel years, there also must be a realignment with that generation’s spending patterns. Many don’t even have credit cards, making virtual payments essential when managing a cohort that can’t carry a balance while waiting for reimbursement.

Outside of spending patterns, the primary advantage to mobile payments for both the traveler and the manager is security. There are no cards to steal and fewer opportunities to lose required receipts. Managing itineraries is much easier with single-use virtual payments, and expenses can be tracked more quickly and easily.

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This transparency is one of the reasons why many travel managers expressed interest in digital payments in the 2015 GBTA research. Given that both travelers and travel managers are comfortable with digital payments, it truly is an infrastructure issue first and foremost.

Given that both travelers and travel managers are comfortable with digital payments, it truly is an infrastructure issue first and foremost.

How approved technology helps

Often, travel policy focuses on cost and supplier selection. The research reveals a significant opportunity for travel managers to create a rubric. By selecting, promoting and supporting a set of apps, managers can devote resources to fewer platforms.

This creates time to guide travelers towards preferred behaviors through better self-service. Without this guidance, some travelers self-serve through non-compliant platforms, while others simply avoid technology. This avoidance reduces the ability to self-serve while increasing the time required to manage the traveler.

Without guidance, the traveler has more leeway to go out-of-policy. This decreases visibility into the out-of-program elements, punching holes in duty-of-care obligations. To avoid greater headaches ahead, it is advisable to issue guidelines for tech in a managed travel program.

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