Corporate travel professionals are increasingly using social media to communicate with travellers. Significantly, corporate travel departments are also becoming more comfortable with this form of collaboration.
Corporate travel professionals are participating in more social networks than they did one year ago, and they are doing so at a higher rate.
In order to know more about the latest trends in this arena, EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta recently spoke to Gregg Brockway, CEO, Tripit.
Brockway, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010, to be held in Chicago (13-14 October), spoke about the participation of corporate travel professionals in social networks, helping business travellers manage life on the road and lot more. Excerpts:
A recent survey indicated that travel management pros see real value in social media tools for increasing travel programme agility and enhancing traveller satisfaction. How do you assess the sentiments regarding the same today?
One of the most interesting things about social media tools is their effect on human behaviour. Before social networking came on the scene, people were restricted to one-on-one communication with each other. Today, anyone who wants to can communicate one-to-many, using tools like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Using social media, business travellers can see where important people in their professional network are going and where they have been. Social media provides an easy way for business travellers to communicate and connect, which increases efficiency and productivity, which in turn makes individual travellers happy. This also benefits the travel programmes, because companies will see greater return on their travel spending.
What new trends have you witnessed as far as the participation of corporate travel professionals in social networks is concerned?
There is definitely a trend toward greater adoption and use of social networks among travel professionals.
Location is the holy grail of the mobile experience. One of the major developments this year has been the availability of free navigation systems on mobile handsets. And the way applications are mushrooming around location-based services, one can only expect more excitement in this arena. What do you make of such developments from the travel industry’s perspective?
When different travel services have visibility into a traveller’s location, the whole travel experience can be better.
Take a typical flight delay, for example. If a traveller is delayed, and the travel tools they use can track the delay and know where the traveller is, useful, relevant services can be presented to the traveller. These services could reschedule the traveller’s rental car pick-up, or let a waiting taxi know the traveller needs a ride. If the traveller is stranded at an airport, a service might tell them whether there are similarly stranded colleagues at the same airport, or how many rooms are still available at hotels in the area. Shopping could also be radically better for travellers. Shopping recommendations or special offers could be tailored to their specific preferences and their current location. And these are just a few examples – the possibilities are huge.
Considering that TripIt’s top goal is to help business travellers manage life on the road, how do you assess the emergence of location-based applications in the travel industry? How are you looking at features such as LBS and augmented reality to enhance the user experience?
In terms of features that take advantage of a mobile handset's GPS/location sensor capabilities, we have some concepts on our roadmap but they're not to the point of specific plans as yet.
In May, TripIt shared that in a couple of months since its launch, TripIt Groups witnessed around 10,000 companies using groups to track and manage their employee travel so far. One of the employers used TripIT for Google Apps, and use it to see everyone’s locations and flight information on a shared Google Calendar. How do you see the utility of your tool from employee engagement perspective? Has it emerged as a tool which facilitates employee networking, collaboration etc?
TripIt absolutely is a great tool for employee networking and collaboration. Groups make it easy for employees to view and share travel plans for their company, department, or project team. This visibility helps employees coordinate schedules, share travel resources, and set up meetings. It also gives managers an organised way to monitor their company travel programme and make adjustments if needed.
Can you elaborate on how do the needs of business and leisure travellers differ when it comes to the use of mobile phones? What should companies need to focus on as far as their mobile-related investments are concerned?
Mobile technology is particularly useful for all types of travellers, because it provides them with easy access to important travel information while they are on the road. Both leisure and business travellers need to keep their plans organised and have trip information like flight numbers, hotel addresses and driving directions readily on hand.
TripIt is making a big investment in mobile technology. Our free apps for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry have been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of travellers. Our mobile site, m.tripit.com, is accessible from any mobile device. One of our more significant investments for mobile was our open API, which makes it possible for any developer to integrate their travel app with TripIt core service.
Going forward, how do you think the evolution of mobile and social media will continue to change the travel industry landscape?
Once upon a time, business travel, leisure travel, and social networks all occupied neat, distinct spaces in the world. Today, these spaces increasingly overlap, and we see all types of travellers using social networks to research trips and stay connected on the road. This convergence makes the travel industry better for all of its participants. As mobile and social technology continues to evolve, a traveller’s information will flow freely across all the different services they want to use, resulting in a profoundly better travel experience. The widespread availability of high-speed mobile internet means that more intelligent services will be available to every traveller when they are needed most. Typically, that will be while the traveller is on the road.
Companies with traveling employees will have dramatically improved visibility into the whereabouts and security of these employees. With the availability of services that aggregate the traveller’s information and share it with other services, people won’t fall off the grid when travel is booked outside a managed programme.
Travel suppliers will also win, with opportunities for improved efficiency and more personalised service. Suppliers today spend millions (or even tens of millions) on highly sophisticated CRM systems that anticipate customer needs and marketing opportunities. Life could be much easier in a future where a traveller’s portable travel persona can automatically share their preferences (king bed and USA Today, please) and travel needs (I am receptive to New York City offers, because I make 6 trips there each year).
Perhaps the most exciting implications are those for the individual traveller, who will have all their travel information in one place, and be able to share that information with any service they want to use. When different services can interact with each other, the whole travel experience will be smoother.
Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010
Gregg Brockway, CEO, Tripit, is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010, to be held in Chicago (13-14 October). The two-day event will feature over 80 speakers, including the ones from Hilton, Wyndham, Travelport, Lufthansa, Expedia, Google and from many other such organisations of repute.
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