There’s no denying that new and emerging technologies have made a drastic impact on managed corporate travel. Five emerging technologies in particular—blockchain, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, machine learning and chatbots—are changing corporate travel, the industry in which BCD Travel operates, as we know it. Here are four areas being significantly affected.

Policy

Today’s travelers rarely refer to policy documents, often book outside of company guidelines and see no incentive for sticking to the rules. Yet, companies rely on travel policies to achieve the greatest return on travel investment and to keep employees safe on the road. How do corporate travel managers overcome that challenge?

New technology is helping to replace today’s static, predefined policies with dynamic, intuitive and personalized behavior management engines.

Emerging technologies can be used to steer travelers toward policy-compliant choices while improving savings and security, quality service, consistency and traveler wellness. A few examples of how travel policy is being enhanced by the technology driven approach include:

Giving travelers personalized booking options, so they won’t look or book elsewhere.

Refining the options with rules, but making them invisible, so travelers don’t feel they are being forcibly steered towards “compliance.”

Offering travelers more flexibility of choice than in the past – but with choices that “invisibly follow” the rules.

Constantly updating the options to deliver what’s best in the marketplace.

Traveler Communication

The influence of machine learning, blockchain and chatbots can provide corporate travel managers powerful communication tools for driving program compliance. These emerging technologies can be used to deliver effective, personalized messages to travelers, engaging them at exactly the right moment to encourage compliance.

A few examples of how emerging technology can be used to communicate with travelers include:

Using machine learning to communicate directly with travelers as individuals, basing messages on travel patterns, booking behavior and personal preferences.

Utilizing a blockchain-based data storage system to keep traveler data safe, increasing traveler willingness to share personal information needed to craft personalized messaging.

Adopting chat bot technology to enable voice-controlled digital assistant travel bookings, and automate routine travel management communication tasks, like answering policy questions.

Using augmented and virtual reality technologies to enhance interaction with travelers, and in some cases, replace travel.

Leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and location-based technology to keep travelers informed with timely and relevant messages throughout their journey, including warnings about flight cancellations and other disruptions.

Expense Management

Every business trip triggers a universally disliked task from which few travelers—from senior executive to new hire—are exempt: filing an expense report. Just as run-flat tires have largely eliminated the risky roadside task of fitting a spare, emerging payment and expense technology could one day completely relieve travelers of the need to claim expenses.

Emerging technologies can be used to not only improve the traveler experience but provide major advantages to managers and accounting departments. 

Machine learning can provide an analysis of invoices and automatically feed information into the correct fields of an expense claim.

Blockchain will allow a supplier to issue a fully itemized transaction record directly into the client company’s accounting system.

Booking and payment can be made “fun” by allowing travelers to book a flight by selecting an airplane that’s flying across a virtual map via virtual or augmented reality.

The Internet of Things can automate the hotel experience by sending a receipt directly to the traveler’s expensing system.

Blockchain can be used to manage hotel commission settlement for travel agents (like BCD Travel is doing in partnership with Hyatt and IBM).

Sourcing

Emerging technologies are changing how companies source travel in a number of important ways, including the identification and selection of suppliers, the specification of products and services, pricing and contracting, the presentation of choices to travelers, payment and supplier performance management.

Areas of influence from emerging tech on sourcing include:

The ability of blockchain to allow smart contracts, as well as redemption and exchange of rewards points across hotel programs.

The role of machine learning in automatically lowering rate caps and giving preference to less expensive hotels to save money.

The role of virtual reality in meeting room configurations and the replacement of in-person meetings.

The role of bots to expand beyond chat into the automation of routine tasks like spend analysis, catalog management, purchase order creation, invoicing and payment processing.