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Harnessing the Power of Automation in Business Travel Management

automation in business travel

A Veteran’s Perspective on Business Travel

As someone who has spent nearly three decades in the business travel industry, I’m continually amazed at how far we’ve come. I can vividly recall a time when business travel was no different from any other kind of travel, save for its distinct purpose. In those days, the emphasis was firmly placed on achieving a successful outcome, with few distractions or complexities to contend with. It’s remarkable how much the landscape has evolved since then.

Navigating the Business Travel Industry: Early Management Days in Business Travel

In the early years of business travel management for companies, the job was all about people. Both management and travelers were inexperienced and relied heavily on administrators, bookkeepers, and vendors to ensure a successful trip. Travelers wanted a personal touch and would call agents multiple times to confirm their itinerary, tickets, preferred seats, and hotels with transfers, among other details. We even sent feedback emails after the trip to get updates on their experience.

Managing all these details required a strong communication structure within the office. We had people stationed everywhere, working different aspects of the travel from start to finish. It was a complex job that required constant back-and-forth between travelers and vendors, but it was necessary to ensure everyone was satisfied.

Challenges in the Digital Age of Business Travel

I remember a time when bank employees protested against the digitization of certain key processes. While technology was a long-awaited revolution for companies, their employees were not as enthusiastic. It was like a massive déjà vu from the industrial age when machines took over. Although some jobs were ultimately displaced, it didn’t create the havoc many feared. Instead, people upgraded their skills and adapted to a refreshed way of working. Tech solutions and automation soon became tools that helped human workers take on more elevated roles and responsibilities.

However, with the rapid development of AI-backed processes and the increasing automation of travel management, there is a fear that travel managers will be replaced by machines. While this concern is understandable, chatbots and virtual assistants are already being used to automate communication and booking processes, which were previously manual tasks. These tools can quickly respond to queries, provide relevant information, and book travel arrangements with minimal human intervention. This automation not only saves time and effort but also reduces errors and increases productivity.

As the travel industry continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies, the role of travel managers is shifting. While automation may reduce the number of people involved in booking travel, it also opens up new opportunities for growth and development. Travel managers are now more essential than ever in areas such as communication, analytics, strategic initiatives, policy, and training. As we continue to embrace technology and upgrade our skills, we can make the most of its potential to improve the way we work and create a more efficient and productive travel industry.

The Next Frontier for Travel Managers

As we look to the future of business travel, it’s clear that technology will play an increasingly important role. However, despite the rise of automation and AI-backed processes, corporate travel management will remain a people-focused job. The success of a business trip depends on the human touch, and that’s not something that machines can replace. Nevertheless, travel managers must continually upskill to stay relevant and contribute to their organizations. Their focus should be on strategy and scaling up, not just job retention. With proper goal alignment, impact measurement, and a commitment to upgrading skills, travel managers can boost their company’s productivity while traveling. By embracing automation and technology in the right way, we can create a more efficient and productive travel industry that benefits everyone.

Discover a simpler way to manage corporate travel

Corporate travel management can be extremely daunting. Getting travelers to stick to budgets while booking travel, monitoring spends or finding support for travelers – there is always something that needs to be done. That’s why we built a solution that makes corporate travel management simpler.

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