8 examples of how digitalization is revolutionizing business travel

The way we travel is changing. We’re always keeping up with the latest business travel trends, and one of the key overarching trends of recent years is how the channels we access and the devices we use are shaping the way we book, plan, and engage in travel, enabled by new technologies, systems, and infrastructure.

We’re, of course, referring to digitalization.

Digitalization is enabling a new kind of travel that’s making the process easier and more efficient for all parties – especially for businesses. This can be seen in small, direct ways such as the adoption of mobile tickets, but also indirectly such as helping push new trends like bleisure through simplification of processes.

And according to the data, we can expect these digital and online technologies to increase their influence on the market.

In 2022, the global online travel market reached $475 billion in size, and is expected to grow to over $521 billion in 2023. By 2030, the market is expected to reach over $1 trillion. [1]

So yes, the digital world is encroaching on the way we travel. And there are a few ways this is starting to make itself known.

Digital ID

Passports are said to have been created in 1414. And yet, how much have they changed over the years? With everything else going digital, why can't passports? Digital identity systems have the potential to make modern travel easier – and they may soon be available.

Digital IDs take traditional identification documents or credentials and makes them digital, as the name suggests. A simple concept but, in reality, there are many challenges to overcome: Security, trust, and other privacy topics are making the development of a single, centralized digital ID system difficult to implement.

These are all of course good reasons to be skeptical, but there are numerous benefits it could bring too. Hence the World Economic Forum’s discussion on balancing trust and incentive. [2]

How digital ID is changing travel

For the travel industry, digital identity represents a dramatic shift in the way customer information is stored and used. It’s another step towards a frictionless travel experience that’s more cohesive and, ultimately, faster than before. And regular travelers are sure to love that.

AI chatbots

With travel disruptions taking the headlines in recent months, you know where customers will be heading. Over-burdened customer service is not a good look, and so travel companies are looking to leverage AI for adaptable 24/7 coverage: Chatbots.

Chatbots are programs designed to simulate human conversation through text. It utilizes artificial intelligence, including leveraging natural language processing, to understand user inputs and provide relevant responses in real-time.

The technology has developed greatly in recent times. The likes of ChatGPT’s generative AI highlights the big potential that conversational chatbots can offer. No longer are these AIs limited to canned responses – they can now show understanding of human intent. Anyone who has dealt with such technology before will know how welcome that is.

It’s no wonder then that the global chatbot market is expected to reach somewhere around $1.25 billion in 2025. [3]

But can we really put our trust in these virtual beings for our travel queries – or even bookings?

In many cases, we already are.

How AI chatbots are changing travel

There are a few different examples of AI chatbots in action in different industries – including business travel. For the time being they work well for predetermined messages and announcements like flight updates and answering routine questions.

But with such big developments taking place as of late, can we expect to see further use of AI chatbots in business travel?

Virtual meetings

Who can remember a time where meeting with colleagues, partners, or anyone else required traveling somewhere and meeting face to face? The rise of virtual meetings and the associated digital infrastructure means that traveling is no longer a given for each and every meeting.

The integration of this software came at a significant cost too – and investment that businesses will want to get the most of. Add to that the fact that productivity is up when working online and the case for virtual meetings appears strong.

But the two approaches continue to coexist.

How virtual meetings are changing travel

Virtual meetings are easily the cheaper choice. Business travel can be expensive to organize and has come under more scrutiny as businesses evaluate their sustainability practices.

Despite these challenges, it’s clear that businesses are adamant that face-to-face meetings offer numerous, often intangible benefits. There are also several scenarios where this kind of connection is seen as indispensable.

In our latest survey of around 110 top German managers, we found yet again that face-to-face meetings are not going anywhere: 97% of those surveyed see disadvantages in replacing business trips with video conferences. [4]

Embedded payment

One big trend seen in the payment world is embedded finance. Embedded finance refers to the integration of financial services and products into non-financial platforms, which allows businesses to offer seamless and contextually relevant financial solutions directly within their own digital ecosystems.

One key example of embedded finance in action is with payments – intuitively referred to as embedded payments.

Embedded payments see the payment process built into the product offering, rather than simply added on separately. The result? A seamless payment experience. Nowhere is this more relevant than with the travel booking process.

How embedded payment is changing travel

Embedded payment offers a new level of convenience, more tailored offerings, and an overall improved payment experience. But one major element stands at the forefront: Personalization.

Travel providers are able to offer a much more specific and user-defined journey to customers. This can range from the provision of at-seat services while traveling to entire holiday bookings. And with 72% saying there’s no excuse for travel brands to have outdated, inefficient payment processes, embedded finance may well lead to increased customer satisfaction. [5]

Ultimately, travelers can expect multiple bookings to happen at different times and with different suppliers in a way that involves data and funds flowing into more places than before. 

Online booking tools

Almost three-quarters of travel managers say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their chosen booking tool. [6] It's no wonder then that 'OBT's are now the norm. Even better, they have paved the way for new and better user experiences – thanks to digitalization.

Online booking tools are digital platforms that enable users to book hotels, flights, and other travel services over the internet. These tools have been available online for years now, but have continued to evolve as new technologies enabled new features and potential.

How online booking tools are changing travel

The key to the success of modern OBTs is their ability to adapt and offer new features that follow market trends. Think seamless omnichannel booking systems or, more pressingly, access to sustainability data.

But to maintain this satisfaction amongst travel buyers, OBTs must continue to fight to provide the most important features and information, essentially keeping their finger on the pulse of the market.

A difficult prospect, yet one they must follow to meet all the marks: content, user-friendliness, and the ability to customize to a company’s travel policy.

New Distribution Capability (NDC)

For this one, we’ll be taking a step behind the scenes to look at the very systems used to distribute and book travel and how they are upgrading to be more digital.

New Distribution Capability (NDC) is a technology standard that has been introduced by the airline industry to enhance the way air travel products are distributed across various channels, including travel agencies and online platforms.

Those in the industry are familiar with global distribution systems (GDSs) and the role they play in the industry – they work as large flight aggregators that collect flights from about 400 airlines and distribute them across travel agencies.

What NDC brings to the table is a new standard for distributing and retailing flight content, allowing airline service providers to deliver rich content and ancillaries to their customers.

How new distribution capability is changing travel

The standard was developed by IATA for companies to implement things like dynamic pricing strategies, better merchandizing opportunities, and reduced reliance on legacy systems. [7]

For business travelers, this modernization of the airline distribution system should make it much easier to access tailored services, gain more transparency into pricing, and more.

Metaverse

What if you could experience travel without leaving the comfort of your home? That’s the promise of the Metaverse.

The Metaverse is essentially an online world – a collective virtual shared space that merges physical and digital reality. In this space, users can interact by taking control over a digital avatar and navigating the space, often with the help of Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) devices.

The technology is still emerging, but it’s becoming easier to take part as the devices become cheaper and more accessible to a wider audience. The obvious use case is to enable people to gather, socialize, and interact with others online in a more physical manner. But businesses are also exploring the potential of the Metaverse.

And it’s gaining in popularity: 72% of global executives believed it would have a positive impact on their organizations according to a 2022 report. [8]

This popularity is also making its way into the world of business travel.

How the Metaverse is changing travel

There are several potential uses for the Metaverse that travel companies are jumping on. Almost all follow the formula of ‘try before you travel’ where you can experience a replica, digital experience of a location or service to ensure that you make the right purchase.

This can involve demoing a premium class seat before a flight or getting to know the layout of a conference or a hotel. In the future, these worlds can live in the Metaverse, with business events and meetings potentially taking place in the virtual universe.

Web3

Web3, the third generation of the internet, is here – and it’s starting to make its mark on the travel industry. This standard utilizes decentralized tech like blockchain, cryptocurrency and NFTs to give ownership back to the users.

However, to access this new generation, a dedicated Web3 browser is needed. These specialized browsers are able to interact with blockchain networks and decentralized applications while integrating crypto wallets and other blockchain tech into the browser itself.

For the trouble, users get to enjoy a decentralized, trustless and secure online experience, where ownership is distributed equally, users are not required to rely on intermediaries or other third parties, and web data is encrypted, protecting personal and sensitive data.

But how can this work in travel?

How Web3 is changing travel

In travel, several businesses are already showing interest in Web3 integration. In fact, 74% of business experts in the travel sector plan to use Web3 as a marketing tool. [9]

So, as uptake continues, we can expect to see new use cases emerge. For now, the opportunities of Web3 in travel have already become clear:

  • Improved reconciliation processes
  • More personalized traveler rewards and loyalty programs
  • Increased security
  • More efficient processes
  • Better payment and settlement solutions

For now, adoption of cryptocurrency payments seems to be the option of choice for businesses looking to dip their toes in the Web3 revolution.

What next?

Like many other aspects of life, travel is changing. This is becoming visible at every step – from planning to the journey itself and how we pay while we’re there. For business travel in particular, this is starting to make a big difference as the industry looks for not only efficiency, but also sustainable solutions.

The future is understandably difficult to predict, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the market as always – so be sure you don’t miss out by subscribing to our newsletter.

 

Banner photo by Gustavo Fring

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/1179020/online-travel-agent-market-size-worldwide/

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/digital-identity-id-principles/

[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/656596/worldwide-chatbot-market/

[4] https://www.airplus.com/corporate/en/media-relations/press/press-releases/2023/cxo-btm-2023-07-12.html

[5] https://thepaypers.com/thought-leader-insights/embedded-payments-personalisations-make-or-break-in-the-travel-industry--1257422

[6] https://www.businesstravelnewseurope.com/Online-booking-tools/Market-analysis

[7] https://www.altexsoft.com/blog/travel/new-distribution-capability-ndc-in-air-travel-airlines-gdss-and-the-impact-on-the-industry/

[8] https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/technology/technology-trends-2022?c=acn_glb_technologyvisiomediarelations_12867298&n=mrl_0322

[9] https://www.phocuswire.com/emergence-web3-in-travel-industry


 


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