The job of a travel manager requires a lot of juggling, micromanaging, and — vitally — evolving. You must be flexible enough to not just roll with the trends but stay on top of them. Changing technology makes this part of your role a daily focus.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are everywhere. Research shows that these capabilities will impact more than half of jobs within the next decade, including travel managers. Those who know how to work alongside machines will have priority over people who aren’t tech-savvy.
If you’re just starting out or watching the shift so you can grow with it, check out these predictions of how technology will change the role of travel managers in the near future.
1. All-in-One Mobile Solutions
The days of being tied down to your desktop office computer are long over. Now, mobile solutions make it possible to connect your programs, data, and staff in one place.
Platforms such as Slack and Airtable are designed for team communication and sharing files. These all-in-one programs make it simple for managers to organize projects like trips. At a glance, you can see who is working on what part of the planning process, what still has to be done, and where you need to step in.
Requests from team members are housed on a central dashboard. You can see instantly whether your purchase approvals are pending or if your traveler has a non-urgent but important concern.
Company documents, including your corporate travel policy, are also stored in the platform, making it simple for travelers on the go to find answers to their questions. Teams can communicate from anywhere around the world as long as they have an active internet connection and their mobile device.
2. Virtual Payments
Virtual cards are a rising trend in the travel industry, predicted to become one of the dominant payment methods for corporate travelers.
These cards, called VCCs, come with many benefits for a travel manager. In the past, delegating booking to your employee meant giving them access to the corporate credit card, a big security no-no. With a VCC, each employee has a one-time-use card connected to the main account. You set the limits and determine what is authorized or unauthorized.
Because these credit cards are virtual and only valid for one use, there is less of a chance of fraud. Instead of using your company’s credit card to book a hotel or flight, then chancing that number getting stolen, you use the virtual card for that transaction. If it’s stolen, the thief does not have access to your bank account.
In short, you control the spending but don’t have to do everything yourself or authorize every transaction anymore.
3. Online Travel Booking Technology
As e-commerce continues to grow and technology gets easier to use, more people choose to make their travel arrangements online.
You can do everything from selecting and scheduling airfare to booking a hotel room. With the right app, this can be done from your phone.
It sounds easy enough, but some still don’t feel comfortable with this technology. The more familiar you are with it, the better you can control the filters. For car rentals, you have more direction as to what kind of gas mileage, leg room, and trunk space. Hotel booking filters let you set factors like price, location, and room availability.
It is still possible to use travel agents and dedicated travel teams to get the job done. But having a travel manager who knows how to use online booking technology strategically is more cost-efficient for many businesses.
4. Data Analysis Software
Making corporate travel more profitable is part of your role. This will become easier over the next few years with data analysis software.
The software records customers and travelers, evaluates performance, and predicts trends. This information guides you as you figure out whether the strategies you’re using are working or determine new ones.
Maybe you’ve been sending travelers to a convention in New York City for the past ten years, but the data shows the return on your investment from clients here isn’t what it used to be. However, workers in Houston see a positive trend in a small pool of clients there, and the numbers show it may be worth it to start sending more people to Houston instead of NYC.
Major corporations use big data to help them strategize their next decisions. When you learn how to incorporate analytics into your role, you can accurately predict prices in travel, consumer demand, and market trends. Overall, data analytics will improve the customer experience and increase your profits.
We’re still in the buffer zone between technological advances and those who prefer to do things the “old-fashioned way.” But if you want to excel in jobs like travel management, technology is no longer optional.