Automation, NDC and the road ahead for business travel

In its 53rd year, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention brought together the best across the industry to reconnect, reimagine and recreate the future of travel. I caught up with many of my peers to discuss the state of business travel and how Global is moving the needle forward in bringing business travel back to life.

Even though we’ve grown accustomed to the many communication tools available today, business travel remains crucial to companies given the importance of face-to-face interactions and relationship building with our teams and customers. But corporate travel is evolving as the workplace changes along with the needs and preferences of employees and companies.

The buzz around NDC

When I evaluate the outlook on business travel, there are major changes, challenges, and opportunities ahead. From conversations with customers and the overall buzz at the convention, agencies and TMCs are taking a more nuanced look at who’s traveling. They’re also understanding the power and challenges of NDC during trip management and how automation can help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

When it comes to NDC operational readiness, the challenge many agencies face today is integrating different workflows and different processes in third-party aggregators and other GDS systems. In the Global environment, interoperability is a key strategic initiative. We take a single platform approach where all products and services work regardless of the content type and source. Point of sale, post-booking automation, duty of care platforms, data management and reporting all continue to work even though NDC content is flowing through.

The buzz around automation

With more flexibility in the workplace expected to be one of the lasting by-products of the pandemic, we’re seeing a growing trend toward relocation, work from anywhere and even those combining work and leisure trips. This means the volume of business travel has the potential to increase. Agencies and TMCs are weighing how automation and technology can help service and manage the different types of trips yet still optimize overall costs. In Monday’s session on the future challenges and opportunities for business travel, the panelists repeatedly called out the need to push automation further across the trip lifecycle to both address increasing volumes but also to improve customer service levels.

Since many companies are not back at pre-COVID staffing levels, it’s an opportunity to rethink what can be automated, what should be automated versus what staff can take on. Now more than ever, companies are harnessing the full potential of automation technology but still leveraging the much-needed human skills for higher value customer needs. As my peers echoed at GBTA, automation technologies bring value to the customer experience, budget, and daily operations.

While most agencies in North America were highly automated before the pandemic, there remained areas of their operations that were either too costly or complicated to automate. For this reason, we partnered with Aimendo to integrate its artificial intelligence and machine learning solution into the Global platform. Its’ smart technology uses AI and natural language processing to automate written communication between the business traveler and the agency or travel management company. This step forward inspires the industry to think about what else can be automated that couldn’t be five or 10 years ago because of cost or complexity.

Let’s get back to business

In 2022 and beyond, travel will continue to have a place in business. However, understanding the trajectory of business travel recovery and pinpointing new opportunities will require an ear to the ground like never before. Attending conferences like GBTA helps companies widen the lens on priorities and identify the best practices and technologies for their business. Similarly, Global can draw insights into how we can help travelers, TMCs and organizations navigate the road ahead.

I reflect on this week and I’m optimistic about the future, the possibilities and how Global will continue to play a pivotal role in business travel’s recovery.  

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