The power of data: the new corporate travel currency?

There has been a lot of talk about advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning in recent years amongst the tech community.

Some large technology companies have placed big bets on emerging technologies and many have even reaped the benefits – take Adobe and Salesforce, for example, with their moves to the cloud. Corporate travel providers are just now experimenting with the use of predictive analytics to guide strategic investments for the future.

In the corporate travel industry, where an exceptional traveller experience is crucial to success, data is the new currency. Data provides an in-depth look at your travel spend through actionable traveller insights. Using predictive analytics, companies can mine and analyse troves of travel and expense (T&E) data, for example, at scale to enhance decision-making, from driving spend pattern to managing negotiated rates or to prep for rising hotel costs.

Additional data doesn’t always equate to faster or more insightful answers though. Nor does it necessarily warrant hiring an army of data scientists to deliver those answers. According to Sabre, travel buyers spend an average of 40 hours per month reconciling travel expenses and payment data. Think about how much time and money that equates to over the course of a year.

Machine learning advancements have the potential to strip the laborious aspects of analysing data for travel program managers, allowing them to spend more time taking action.

Predictive analytics means agile businesses

When data is unlocked, business leaders have access to the information they need to make strategic decisions that directly impact the bottom line and ensure investments made are in the right areas – both internally and with partners. Data is the backbone of digital transformation for organizations today.

Corporate travel management companies (TMCs) are heavily investing in the power of predictive data analytics to impact travel spend in various areas, including:

  1. Spend concentration: Looking at spend concentration in hotel or airline markets across the world helps leaders comprehend how much money is spent by region to inform and/or predict consolidation. Further optimization can provide insights ahead of supplier negotiation meetings and influence which markets to target for additional outposts. While manual aspects of this process remain, the ability to use machine learning to make modifications based on user preferences is on the horizon.
  2. Pricing predictions: Optimizing inventory recommendations is emerging as an effective tactic in negotiating deals and contracts with suppliers. As these systems evolve, the level of detail will become more granular and could further help with rate and policy structure negotiations.
  3. Expense: Overall advancements in technology, specifically machine learning, can significantly cut costs for organizations in the corporate travel space. In addition to reducing the time needed for consolidation, machine learning can provide insight into travel spend by analyzing past trends, observing current trends and predicting decisions for total spend in the future.
  4. Traveller risk management: Advances have the potential to help businesses forecast travel disruptions such as weather patterns or airports and routes with the most delays; mitigating most customer concerns by communicating updates to travel managers. Predictive analytics is currently being tested by large companies such as Amazon, as well as by hoteliers such as Hyatt and InterContinental Hotels Group, according to EyeForTravel’s ‘Bringing Predictive Analytics to the Hotel Industry’ white paper, and we expect that this type of technology will only become more efficient with time.

The future of data with AI

According to a recent report from PWC, a wide range of companies are heavily investing in emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning. These new resources are transforming operational processes that previously leveraged historically based data to compete with the predictive capabilities of machine-learning algorithms. Benefits range from gained efficiencies internally, to understanding users’ preferences; thereby making way for chatbot-like service to present a limited subset of highly personalized options for users.

While experimentation today is primarily focused on consumer benefits, these types of emerging technologies offer promise for the future especially as it relates to the way companies conduct business with their own people and partners. In the future, we envision a world where AI allows companies to predict and resolve travel issues, solely based on traveller behaviour, encouraging them to leverage their company’s travel program, increase travel spend savings and/or inform policy decisions. For now, predictive analytics is on the case.

What to do now?

What will ultimately give companies a competitive edge now is more agile use of data. From traveller risk management to pricing predictions and travel spend optimization, technological advances can turn these old school, and often manual processes into automated transactions that will ensure business operates smoothly and efficiently. In corporate travel, the way forwards is to unlock the power of data and leverage this new currency. You can be sure that doing so will not only increase traveller satisfaction but will positively impact your T&E program and your bottom line.