Why online tools will soon replace people in corporate travel management


Image credit: Colin Hesterly

In this post, I wanted to give an overview on using one of the solutions to travel and expenses management for business. But when started the article, realized that not for everyone is clear why such tools should be implemented in global companies. This requires additional cost (on implementation phase) and extra effort for guidance.

I believe it’s only a matter of time when global companies start reducing administrative stuff to minimum, especially in corporate travel industry. Not good news for travel assistants and managers, good news for business travel providers, software companies and startups.Just to give you an input why I am caring about this topic my short story. I’ve stepped on the route of providing travel management services to the large IT outsourcing companies in 2011. The first company I worked for had a headcount of around 1500 employees only in my location, and twice more in offices all over the globe. The mobility of IT specialists increases in geometric progression each year which is why companies need to expand visa and travel support team every year.

To give you the vision on the scales of corporate travel in such companies: in 2013 year there were booked more 1100 air tickets and spent almost 1 million dollars for air travel only in one country location. As you know, along with the airfare you pay the commission to supplier which is 15-150$ per each ticket depending on the country of issuance. The company also pays salaries to people who arrange bookings.

Besides tickets, you book accommodation. You might think that global companies should have good discounts in hotels and apartments. The answer is yes and no. They do have, but with development of such portals as Booking.com travel assistants lost the need in negotiating the reduced rates with hotels. Major part of bookings are made via websites. You know, it’s much easier to make a reservation in 3 clicks than calling directly to hotel. So yes, the employees get hotels which they want at booking.com and very often get not exactly what was expected. These cases are usually followed by complaints, requests for another hotel, which causes additional expenses. This all is fine when the client pays, but when the costs go to the internal budgets the company fails in saving the costs.

At some point travel provider we worked with presented an online tool for tickets and hotel booking. It was obvious that adoption of such tool and allowing employees arrange their business trips by themselves would cause reduction of staff. No one was ready for drama. And besides that, the tool was raw and needed further modification. But this was the first time when I realized that algorithms will soon be in the forefront of travel industry.

Three years later I started working in digital advertising agency and we adopted online travel management tool. The company employs 2000 people worldwide and now all of them arrange their business travel by themselves: book tickets, get approvals, arrange hotels at company preferred rates and report expenses within one smart online platform. The adoption process took around 6 months. All travel processes within 16 offices around the world is supported by 3 people who mostly support visitors. This is today’s reality.

So, coming back to my initial idea: in my next post I’d like to give an overview to one of the travel management tools and analyze its pros and cons.

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