Proprietary technology in the face of a pandemic
In 2020, the travel sector was one of the industries most significantly disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions. As a global travel management company with in-house global tech teams and proprietary technology solutions, Corporate Travel Management’s (CTM’s) pro-active response to the pandemic was key to its business continuity and its ability to support customers in their return to safe, efficient and cost-effective business travel.
CTM’s Global Chief Technology Officer, Michael Kubasik, explained “CTM has a long history of innovating, adapting and investing in proprietary technology. This strategy enabled the business to respond quickly to the pandemic. Having our own in-house technology has enabled us to deploy many first-to-market solutions to our corporate customers and continues to support their new and evolving travel needs in a post-COVID environment.”
With business travel looking different today, both on the road and behind the scenes, CTM has used its technology to deliver fast-changing intelligence direct to customers and employees. “Supported by CTM’s customer service including localised after-hours emergency travel support and an intuitive, reliable and accessible technology framework, our customers have been empowered to return to travel, where borders permit, with maximum safety, efficiency and confidence. Our solutions also enable businesses to increase visibility and control over their budget expenditure and program compliance while meeting their duty of care obligations” said Kubasik. “This has never been more important than now, as our clients look to squeeze even greater value out of their travel investment.”
A global vision, built and deployed for regional needs
The role of travel management providers has shifted dramatically in recent years, from transactional booking fulfilment to a more holistic advisory and consultancy relationship. “Understanding our customers’ corporate travel program objectives as well their travellers’ unique travel trends and preferences is key to driving highly personalised experiences that deliver on safety, wellbeing, compliance and cost control” said Kubasik.
In adapting its service and technology offering to a COVID-19 environment, CTM worked closely with travel suppliers, governments and industry innovators around the world. Its investment in building proprietary in-house technology has enabled CTM to quickly and easily adapt it’s tech stack and integrate emerging third-party data sources into its pre-trip planning and approval workflows, online and mobile travel booking tools, risk identification and communications platforms, and post-trip reporting tools. CTM was one of the first travel management companies in the world to integrate Universal Product Attributes (UPAs) into its proprietary online booking tool, Lightning, to provide users with real-time COVID-19 health and safety features direct from over 100 airlines globally within their flight search. Similar integrations have been deployed for hotel cleanliness programs.
“We listened to our customers’ feedback, and it was clear they needed quick, reliable information relating to their ‘permission’ to travel. So we created a new COVID-Hub and GeoRisk tool for our customers globally which integrates country and city level travel and health advice, border restrictions and quarantine requirements via an interactive global map and itinerary search to support highly efficient, reliable and responsible travel planning and duty of care” said Kubasik.
Duty of care and traveller wellbeing are now critical elements of any successful business travel program. With that in mind, CTM’s post-trip reporting tools enable businesses to easily identify travellers that may have been to a COVID hotspot, and its Traveller Wellbeing dashboards provide insight into the potential triggers of traveller fatigue.
“As a global company, we understand the local nuances of our regional markets as well as the unique travel needs and objectives of businesses across geographic location, industry and size” explains Kubasik. “As such, CTM has developed a global technology vision which is regionally adapted and deployed out of four regional tech hubs to meet those local market needs and nuances. These hubs ensure that we build client-facing technology in collaboration with our regional clients, employees and industry suppliers, aligned to local and regional market requirements. Those feedback loops are critical to the relevance and value of our technology offering. It also means that we can continue to adapt our technology to address changing travel environments and customer needs at maximum speed in every market we operate in.”
Personalisation driving savings, adoption and compliance
Personalisation is at the heart of CTM’s competitive proposition and underpins its service and technology strategy. By owning its own technology eco-system, CTM has the ability to integrate data from multiple sources, providing a rich data environment that supports a greater understanding of a clients’ corporate travel program performance, booking trends and individual traveller preferences.
“By layering corporate travel policy regulations with traveller preferences, we can support both the personal and corporate policy objectives of our customers. We aggregate travel content from multiple sources, such as Global Distribution Systems (GDS), New Distribution Capability (NDC), APIs, corporate negotiated rates and CTM negotiated deals, supporting greater choice, relevance, efficiency and cost control for our customers.”
CTM is also well progressed in exploring use cases for AI and machine learning within its technology eco-system, to advance its personalisation strategy and support internal and external efficiencies through automation.
“CTM’s proprietary technology strategy has given us the ability to stay ahead of the curve and adapt quickly to industry shifts. This strategy has served us well in responding to the unprecedented disruption of a global pandemic, allowing us to rapidly evolve to meet our customers’ changing expectations and needs, and respond to new challenges and opportunities facing the travel industry. As we look to the future, CTM will continue to deliver data-driven, personalised and intuitive services across every customer touchpoint that enable our customers to easily and effectively navigate the new norms of business travel.”
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