Flexibility: The New Buzz Word in the Travel Industry

Big data, gamification, road warrior, open booking, traveler-centric, rogue travelers, millennials. These are all buzz words you have been bombarded with in recent years. But there is a new buzz word in the travel industry, and it’s here to stay.

Taking a look back to where the buzz presumably began - to three years ago when the sharing economy hit the travel world. The sharing economy is defined as when assets or services are shared between private individuals by the means of the internet. So the day the internet evolved to making everything you owned and weren’t using a valuable commodity to anyone in the world.

As we all know, Uber, Airbnb and Lyft have infiltrated the industry, but the Sharing Economy is now evolving to be more business-centric to provide the control travel programs are seeking.

Uber for Business and Lyft for Business allows companies visibility to when, where, and how employees are riding and automatically route receipts into expense platforms. Airbnb for Business has incorporated a travel arranger feature allowing admins and travel managers to book on behalf of their employees ensuring their policy is met. While results are showing continual increases from travelers using these services, travel programs are still not acknowledging these companies in their policy.

A recent BTN article shared that in the 4th Quarter of 2016, among top suppliers like Starbucks, Delta and American, Uber was the most frequently expensed vendor among all categories processed by Certify.

In 2014, the sharing economy was valued at a $14 billion dollar industry, but experts estimate that the sharing economy will grow to $335 billion in value by 2025.

It’s clear travel programs can no longer try to avoid it.

Although flexibility started in HR with work from home, pick and choose benefits (like Pet Insurance). The sharing economy was the first step in travelers’ willingness to be flexible as the mobile phone and new technologies allowed them to be powerful and disruptive. And with that came choice.

Travel Programs have always focused on savings and compliance but this new found transparency applies to everything in travel, empowering travelers from their desktops in the office to the mobile phones that are with them in every aspect of their work life, home life, and business trips.

In 2017, travel managers have emphasized the desire to create more traveler-centric programs and have shifted the focus on the traveler’s experience, versus old-school savings and compliance, as the main indicator of a travel program's success.

As quoted by Travel Industry Consultant Scott Gillespie, “Savings is shortsighted. It's all about delivering a positive business outcome.”

Enter the flexibility economy, which allows companies to create travel programs that adhere to both principles, combining savings with choice, creating a win-win for their travel program. A few technologies that are embracing this approach include:

Rocketrip

Inspired by Google’s internal incentive program, Rocketrip helps companies control their travel dollars by providing employees with a real-time Budget to Beat and motivating them to save. Rocketrip provides insight into what's reasonable to spend, and then motivates employees to spend less. When employees get to keep half of what they save, they're more likely to spend company money as carefully as their own. Examples of how Rocketrip is changing behavior include: Flying economy instead of business class, booking a lower star class hotel, staying with a friend or in an Airbnb.

Upside

Upside uses a proprietary Big Data software engine to instantly find the “top 6” flights and “top 6” hotels that save money for companies while meeting the specific needs each trip. Travelers pick their flights, then pick their hotel, and then buy them together for one low price saving the company money.

Like Rocketrip, Upside’s solution essentially pays travelers to buy travel that save’s their company money.  Upside’s savings result in providing a gift card to the traveler, typically worth $100, or $200, even $300 or more, at Amazon.com or the traveler’s choice of top retailers.

TripBam

TripBam searches hotels for a lower rate after a reservation is made. The tool is not a booking site, but monitors the traveler’s hotel as well as creates a cluster near the destination of similar rated hotels in a set distance and as prices drop they send an email offering the new, cheaper reservation until check in. This price assurance tool provides companies with a portal to monitor and show user activity and is collecting hotel program insights to empower travel managers with data to take to hotels during negotiations.

TripActions

TripActions is unique in using behavioral science to empower better choices. Every time someone saves the company money, they earn TripBucks that can be used for personal trips or upgrades utilizing incentives to reshape booking behavior. Companies can track real-time savings and business travelers can make choices that benefit themselves and the company.

As many new technologies become available on the market today, travel management companies still aren’t completely off the hook. TMCs will also need to participate in the flexibility economy to be strategic partners with their clients.

Short’s offers flexibility in our unique decision analysis tool, CouldYou. CouldYou pops up after the traveler has searched the booking tool and selected their desired air, car, and hotel accommodations. The tool searches the exact same flight times, hotel and car reservations and provides alternative pricing seven days before and seven days after, showing the traveler potential savings. Should the traveler be flexible in their trip to visit a client or prospect then they have the option to change their details before they check out. CouldYou makes it more transparent to travelers that fares can change drastically day to day, and will change their behavior to search for trip schedules and rates before confirming their next meeting date. CouldYou also provides robust reporting to the travel manager, which shows the potential savings found across all searches on other dates, who is accepting the lower fares, and who is declining. Want more information? Visit www.shortstravelmanagement.com/couldyou or email sales@shortstravel.com.

Author: Megan Howard