This is a viewpoint from Dr Martin Buck, senior vice president for Messe Berlin GmbH.
Travel technology has tremendously changed the way we travel, from sharing our photos on social media to voice search via GPS-based navigation apps which can show us the way to great food, great attractions or great shops.
And as people all over the world travel more and more for leisure, business travelers expect the same level of tech innovation and engagement to enhance the ease and efficiency of their corporate trip.
As a result, travel managers and business travel agents are having to take on new roles and learn new skills, beyond their established organising and servicing functions. Employees expect them to be up-to-date with the latest leisure travel tech trends and to find a way to bring these into the corporate domain.
The hotel industry is exposed to the new demands from corporate travellers, particularly as Generation Y and Z employees start to travel more on business. Hotels will need to provide these customers with a personalised experience while factoring in the need of the corporate as well as the traveller.
While app-based check-in/out, registration and door opening have already become reality, Germany-based company Conichi now for example works on building the digital bridge between mobile-first travellers users and the classic hotel world such as launching email notification for check-in, taking its inspiration from the airline industry.
Another field of business travel undergoing major change is the rental car business. Companies such as Europcar and Sixt are well advanced in their use of voice search while car manufacturers such as BMW are strong on integrating voice commands into their vehicles.
Revolution could come in the form of autonomous cars, although not in the short term. Alex Bainbridge from DestinationCTO has repeatedly outlined the potential for autonomous vehicles in the leisure industry, but also sees many benefits for the business travelers. He claims autonomous cars could be used for a spontaneous sightseeing tour between two meetings or be hired as tiny meeting spaces. Last but not least, they are likely to become a major alternative to airport taxis.
Tomorrow’s business travel innovations are not be limited to self-driving cars. Drone-taxis, ordered by app, could be the future of autonomous transportation. Business customers, experienced frequent travelers with tight schedules, could be the early adopters of this future tech.
Showing the way
This year’s ITB Berlin, taking place in the German capital from 7 to 11 March 2018, celebrates the growth in tech providers focusing on the business customer. Tickets Travel Network, for example, one of the fastest-growing travel distribution companies in the EMEA region, processes more than 18,000 bookings per day. The company develops APIs, white label solutions as well as an online self-booking tool for corporations and big companies.
Belgium’s Masai Mobility Community has created proprietary technology and solutions enabling a seamless connection between concierges and service providers in an open community based approach.
Germany-based Hotelbird is also an app-based tech tool which aims to bring seamless digital travel experiences to hotels through zero commission for direct bookings, digital check-in and check-out capabilities and a comprehensive payments platform.
Acomodeo is developing a compare and book platform specifically for the serviced apartments sector, accressing the supply by working with apartment owners and the demand by connecting with travel managers. As Airbnb steps up its presence in the corporate travel space, Acomodeo is helping the established apartment providers to compete.
Airbnb as a business travel accommodation option will appeal to younger employees who may have stayed at an Airbnb on a leisure trip. As the demographics of the workforce changes, so too does the demands and expectations of that workforce.
There is a high number of providers currently working on new tools and solutions to meet the specific requirements of Gen X and Y. We’re excited to welcome many of them to ITB Berlin 2018 and see which emerging companies have the potential to become established over the next few years.
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