Ripsy Bandourian, senior director of product development, Booking.com for business, explains how technology has affected how we plan, book and stay.
Whatever we think about the pace of change in our everyday lives, technology has been right at the core, enhancing and personalising our experiences like never before. And nowhere is this truer than in the travel world where technology has positively disrupted how we plan, book and stay when travelling for work or leisure.
This technological transformation has spawned a new generation of tech-savvy, app-wielding consumers who demand smart, friction-less travel at every point of the process. From booking travel and accommodation to checking-in, shopping and booking transfers, the power is literally in people’s pockets.
This new ‘on demand,’ dynamic and fast-paced travel culture has thrown a spotlight on corporate travel because it openly challenges the stigma which has, for so long, defined business trips – bleary eyed men and women in suits rushing through an airport to catch a flight they’re likely late for, before spending the night in boring, corporate accommodation and eating bland food off the room service menu.
This could not be further from the truth. Technology has inspired the rebirth of corporate travel like never before, giving business travellers a greater sense of freedom and exploration, as well as validating time out of the office – something which has blighted business leaders for years.
In fact, we’re seeing the rise of a new class of ‘bleisure traveller’. The lines between business and leisure travel have blurred with holiday opportunists taking the chance to extend their business trip for personal pleasure. Recent Booking.com research shows nearly half of business travellers (49 per cent) have extended their business trip to a different city or country in the past 12 months, with nearly one third of this group (27 per cent) claiming they intend to do the same in 2017.
A TECHNOLOGY POWERED BOOKING EXPERIENCE
In many ways, technology has short-circuited the travel booking process immeasurably – making methods such as booking through travel agents or calling airlines and hotels directly a thing of the past. Travellers today expect speed, instant confirmation, access to real traveller reviews, diverse places to stay and price transparency – demands which traditional booking methods simply cannot fulfil or keep pace with.
Recent Booking.com research suggests that 93 per cent of business travellers experience some level of stress during their trip, with 25 per cent stating they are always or frequently stressed throughout. By making travel apps, gadgets and tools an essential part of their travel process, executives on the go can simplify travel and eliminate many of the most stressful aspects of the journey.
HIGH TECH ACCOMMODATION
The impact of technology does not stop when business travellers leave the airport. In fact, this is where it becomes even more interesting. Accommodation providers are increasingly recognising that the sweet spot in customer service excellence lies in a mix of self-service technology and human interaction. It’s why we’ve seen interest peak in things like Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning. As human beings crave personal interaction, travel technology providers are now trying to mimic this through cutting-edge innovations.
This includes overhauling the check-in experience to make it more intuitive, seamless and personal, as well as providing app and gadget recommendations to help travellers navigate their neighbourhoods while in town on business. From language apps such as ‘Duolingo’ to learn while on-the-go, to foodie apps like ‘Foodspotting’ which take the hassle out of finding places to sample local cuisines – technology is enhancing the full spectrum of the travel experience, well beyond flights and accommodation.
The Blow-Up Hall 5050 hotel in Poznan, Poland, for example, combines innovative technologies with luxury to create a modern and artistic experiment.
Guests are captured on camera as they enter the hotel, and stylised images of their profiles are projected back. Instead of traditional keys, guests are handed iPhones at reception which are linked to specific rooms and use digital recognition software to guide users to the correct room and unlock the door on proximity. This tackles a real pain point for business travellers – one in five state that checking in and out is the most annoying part of a work trip.
Advances in technology have altered the course of travel forever. Consumer expectations of travel, whether for work or leisure, are increasingly intertwined and sophisticated. People now expect a basic level of technology throughout their journey – at the airport, on the plane and in their accommodation. But they also want to be in control of their trip at all times, from any device and with the touch of a button.
From digital luggage tags, to portable espresso machines, to apps like Booking.com which instantly find you a place to stay even when standing on a street corner anywhere in the world, technology has raised the bar when it comes to expectations of corporate business travel.
With the advancement of travel technology, the ways business travellers book, manage and enjoy their journeys have become increasingly easier, slicker, and stress-free. And for the future, the sky may be the limit. Who knows – perhaps we will soon see artificially intelligent personal assistants installed in hotel rooms, or driverless cars taking business travellers to and from the airport?