Tech is vital but biggest frustration for travel managers, finds FCM and GBTA study

Tech is vital but biggest frustration for travel managers, finds FCM and GBTA study

The Evolution of Travel Program Technology report collated responses from over 300 travel managers in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia Pacific

Technology is both important and the biggest source of frustration for corporate travel managers, according to a latest global study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and FCM.

Flight’s Centre’s business travel division collaborated on The Evolution of Travel Program Technology research for a new whitepaper that is available to download now.

As business travel returns following the CPOVID pansemic, the study explored how technology has impacted the travel manager’s role, the traveller experience, and the TMC business.

It notes how during the pandemic, digitalisation and the use of technology accelerated as travellers were driven online and towards a more contactless and touchless experience.

However, research found that two in five travel managers cited technology as one of their top pain points, “suggesting there is still work to be done in achieving the right balance”.

As companies return to travel and update their travel policies, the report acknowledges that many are using the opportunity to reassess supplier relationships and technology requirements.

Suzanne Neufang, chief executive of GBTA, said: “The role of the corporate travel manager changed significantly as a result of the pandemic, elevating the position as companies navigated unprecedented challenges.

“Given the fast pace of change, technology has played a vital role in ensuring the efficiency of travel programs.

“Keeping updated and communicating with travellers has taken on renewed urgency for companies, and travel managers looking to their TMCs to advise on innovative ways to manage travel programs effectively while keeping travellers safe.”

Marcus Eklund, global managing director, FCM added: “The rapid pace of technological innovation presents tremendous opportunities for travel managers and managed travel programs as we return to business travel. Travel managers cite technology as the most important factor when selecting a TMC.

“The study also showed that on average nine in ten global travel managers say a consistent technology experience is of utmost importance. It is essential TMCs be at the forefront of technological advancements to advise travel managers, and help solve corporate global travel challenges.”

Key highlights from the study:

  • Technology is the most important factor when travel managers select a TMC, ahead of costs and fees and account management quality and support. Three in five (59%) travel managers cited technology as one of the most important factors when selecting a TMC. However, two in five respondents (42%) placed technology as one of the top pain points of their primary TMC.
  • Almost all travel programs (96%) use an online booking tool (OBT), making them the most popular technology component of a travel programme. However, other technology solutions are less frequent including reporting dashboards, TMC mobile apps, re-shopping tools and single use virtual payments to name a few. “This suggests many travel managers might largely associate travel technology almost exclusively with OBTs and thus, might be unaware of other solutions that can create efficiencies and streamline travel program components”.
  • Few travel programmes use their online booking tool to promote sustainability. Fewer than half of respondents said their OBT shows carbon emissions in search results (44%) or displays lower emission flights higher in search results (10%), provides sustainability messaging (4%) or is configured to exclude less sustainable options from search results (2%). However, a significant number of travel managers were interested in configuring their OBT to do these things
  • There was widespread interest in chatbots. Seven in 10 travel managers said they are interested in artificial intelligence-enabled chat. Despite strong interest, chatbots are largely not a reality for most travel programs. Fewer than half say their TMC app includes a chatbot that can answer traveller questions (44%) or can help travellers make bookings (29%).
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) was seen as having the potential to dramatically transform how travel programmes operate. Travel Managers were widely interested in using AI to enhance reporting (87%), data cleansing (82%), personalisation of search results (78%), and auditing of expense reports (62%).
  • Travel manager’s understanding of the New Distribution Capability (NDC) was mixed, with many being largely uninitiated with the XML-based data transmission standard. One-third (30%) said they know “some but have more to learn,” while one in five said they know “virtually nothing” or only “a little” about NDC (20% each). While one in five (21%) travel managers reported their programme offers NDC content through their TMC/OBT, a third (34%) were unaware if their TMC/OBT offers NDC content, suggesting NDC is not top of mind among many travel managers.

The survey was conducted between February 14 and March 21, 2022, by GBTA with responses from 309 travel managers based in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia Pacific.