BCD Travel examines the implications of technology on sourcing in the corporate travel industry with release of first ‘Inform’ series paper

Blockchain, chatbots, machine learning, virtual reality (VR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are among the emerging technologies capturing the imagination of the business travel community. These innovations have the potential to be truly disruptive forces. But precisely how they will change corporate travel, and how travel buyers can prepare, isn’t yet clear.


Summary:

  • Blockchain, chatbots, machine learning, virtual reality (VR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are among the emerging technologies capturing the imagination of the business travel community;
  • A new report by global travel management company BCD Travel examines how these emerging technologies will impact sourcing in the business travel industry;
  • The report on sourcing is the first paper in a new six-part ‘Inform’ series on emerging technology and travel management;
  • The report concludes with tips that executives and travel managers can use to drive innovation forward, such as joining beta test groups and consolidating data and systems before introducing new technologies.

A new report by global travel management company BCD Travel examines how these emerging technologies will impact sourcing in the business travel industry. Approached from the corporate travel buyer’s point of view, the paper is intended to close a knowledge gap within the travel industry when it comes to understanding the implications of digital technology.

The report on sourcing is the first paper in a new six-part series on emerging technology and travel management examining how blockchain, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, machine learning, chatbots and artificial intelligence will impact six key areas of corporate travel program management: sourcing, policy, communications, duty of care, payment and expense, and performance management.

“Given that corporate travel buyers are now headed into annual supplier negotiations, we thought the sourcing topic would be a good one for our debut paper in the Inform series,” says BCD’s Miriam Moscovici, director of emerging technologies and leader of the team that produces the Inform series. “The paper helps travel buyers better understand how to use digital technologies – like AI and chatbots – in sourcing scenarios. This is real-world information for real-world programmes.”

Specific areas of sourcing examined by the debut paper in the series include the identification and selection of suppliers, the specification of products and services, pricing and contracting, the presentation of choices to travellers, payment and supplier performance management.

Areas of influence on sourcing examined in the report include:

  • The ability of blockchain to allow smart contracts, as well as redemption and exchange of rewards points across hotel programmes;
  • The role of machine learning in automatically lowering rate caps and giving preference to less expensive hotels to save money;
  • The role of virtual reality in meeting room configurations and the replacement of in-person meetings;
  • The role of bots to expand beyond chat into the automation of routine tasks like spend analysis, catalogue management, purchase order creation, invoicing and payment processing.

The report concludes that emerging technologies can help to restore sourcing as a highly effective way of managing travel costs and offers tips that executives and travel managers can use to drive innovation forward, such as joining beta test groups and consolidating data and systems before introducing new technologies.

The five technologies will make the travel buyer-supplier relationship much more dynamic,” it explain, and tools using these technologies will “constantly assess and activate new buying opportunities, monitor and fix potential problems as they occur and deliver the best, most compliant pricing options to travellers, so they won’t want to look elsewhere”.

However, the report acknowledges that while emerging technologies can certainly make corporate travel sourcing faster and smarter,  “innovation is not without risks and practical obstacles,” and identifies technology inertia, data security and data protection legislation as three specific challenges.

Blockchain promotes such a radically different way of working that companies also “need to be prepared for almost every aspect of sourcing to change,” says the paper. As well as the opportunities, there are some extra challenges it identifies that blockchain presents such as instant settlement impacting cashflow, unstable virtual currencies and lack of flexibility in contracts.

The six Inform reports will be published over the remainder of the year and through the first half of 2019. The second report in the series, focusing on policy will be published in Oct-2018. BCD Travel reveals that among the key subjects explored in the policy report is the role new technology is playing in the transformation of policy development and policy detail. “Technology doesn’t mean policy is necessarily dead, but technology will help tailor policy to individual needs and provide better compliance,” says the policy paper’s lead author, Mike Eggleton, senior manager analytics and Research at BCD Travel.

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