Business travel is going ‘smart’
Business Travel in the Middle East is going through many transformations, driven by high investments in the travel and technology infrastructure as well as well-informed and tech-savvy travellers with high adoption of latest technology. Those travellers, who are accustomed to high levels of customer service and experience in other sectors, are setting the expectations high in the business travel segment.
Speaking to the media at a recent Arabian Travel Market forum in Dubai, Sajish Tampi, regional manager- Saudi Arabia and Bahrain ITL World Travel Management Company, said: “Technological transformation in the travel segment has created a new generation of tech-savvy consumers who demand smart, frictionless travel at every point of the process.”
According to him, this new ‘on demand’ travel culture has now made its way into the business travel segment but has been met with disappointment.
The reason, Tampi points out, is “lack of personalisation and the challenges that come with coporate travel policies” – which allow businesses to control the costs of sending employees on work trips, and also allow some control over the employee's travel experience and safety.
“While the global travel industry has taken on the customer-first approach, offering tailor-made inventory based on traveller preferences and needs, the same level of personalisation is yet to be embraced by the corporate travel sector, especially in the Middle East,” Tampi noted.
“With the rise in number of millennials in the region’s work space, it is essential for companies and corporate travel managers to adapt their policies to the preferences of the [younger] travellers.”
While most business travellers are required to use company-provided booking tools or resources, research has shown that only half of them regularly book using the company’s online booking tool. And the reason for that is because business travellers, like most, prefer to have greater freedom to book the way they want.
According to Tampi, in order to encourage a greater acceptance of company-provided booking tools, organisations must adopt new-age technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to better understand the younger business traveller demographic and offer personalised services.
“Corporate travel booking tools have a long way to go in the Middle East. Change is inevitable and it will be brought on by the [millennial] travellers themselves,” Tampi noted.