Monday 21 August 2017

Upward mobility is the top wish from business travellers

Two out of three corporate travellers want to book and manage trips on their mobile devices
Two out of three corporate travellers want to book and manage trips on their mobile devices
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

So what does the corporate traveller want in order to make life on the road that bit easier? Priority boarding or airport lounge access might seem the obvious choices - but the answer is actually better technology.

The latest travel and technology survey by Egencia, the business-travel arm of online travel agents Expedia, shows that two out of three respondents want to manage and book their trips on every mobile device, not just on their smartphone, and to have instant access at all times.

And the rise of millennials, with their odd, tech-driven ways is apparent, with half of those surveyed (this was a global poll) admitting they like to avoid human interaction on the road unless they are having a problem. Almost half (more in the US) would like to be able to use text to update their travel arrangements.

Despite the grumblings of so-called 'road warriors', most business people find business trips more enjoyable than everyday work life, but say travelling would be easier with better onboard wifi, non-stop flights, class upgrades on flights longer than six hours and extra time off to compensate for travelling on weekends and/or personal time.

And two-thirds of travel managers believe business travellers expect to be able to book and manage their travel across mobile devices, according to a linked report by travel-intelligence company Skift. But it found that they also want to use their phone or mobile device to check into a hotel, rent a car and use mobile messaging to update itineraries.

Still, the big grumble is that while airlines and hotels tout fancy new website offerings, corporate travellers believe that corporate travel remains way behind the leisure sector for ease of booking via mobile. As one executive who responded to Skift put it: "Corporate travel is a dinosaur - anyone who can take it to the next level and be more geared to the average consumer is going to win."

n But corporate travel is evolving, with some start-ups leading the way. I caught up with one, MediaConcepts, at the Business Travel Show in London, whose app, Priscilla, is a millennial's dream - you can avoid human contact, if that's your bag, on hotel trips.

Even before your trip begins, you can express check in to your hotel via the app, set up your favourite channels on the hotel room's TV and set the temperature.

After checking in online to our hotel (you might still be in the bag-drop queue in Dublin, Cork or wherever at this stage), you get info on the weather at your destination, the currency exchange rate, events at and near the hotel, plus recommendations on things to do and places to explore nearby.

Having experienced the grief of being hopelessly lost, not being able to find my way back to my hotel in Chengdu (a Chinese city of 10-plus million) in the past, the app has a superb feature: Priscilla provides your hotel address in the local language, so you can show a taxi driver.

Once at the hotel, you don't need to check in or even pick up a key - your phone will open your room door - while the app, which realises you're at your destination, makes sure the temperature is set. Checking out is a cinch too; your bill pops up on your phone, so pay up and you're all set.

An app like Priscilla is made for millennials - all convenience and with no need to deal with pesky human beings. It is already in use by a number of major hotel chains in the UK, Europe and Asia, including Thistle Hotels, Ascott - The Residence, and Citadines Apart'hotel, MediaConcepts' chief executive and founder, John Bowen, told me. But whatever about millennials and their fads, I do like one thing about Priscilla - it can switch off the room lights by command.

If, like me, you have ever spent fruitless hours trying to locate and knock off every switch in your room, that is a godsend on its own.

n Qatar's irrepressible chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, certainly set the cat among the pigeons with his comments in Dublin about "always being served by grandmothers on American airlines", as reported in this column last week.

He got slated by American Airlines - which is fighting Qatar's bid to take a 10pc stake in it - as well as US pilots and staff unions, who, to be fair, have a track record in taking pops at foreign carriers. So any chance to hit back in an increasingly bitter Gulf vs US spat is taken with relish. During last week, he apologised, saying competition should be robust but respectful. And robust competition it certainly will be, and you can guarantee that airline spats aren't going away.

Sunday Indo Business

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