Technology has always been a key enabler in the business world, and this is especially true for business travel. Companies that invest in travel-friendly technology increase productivity, compliance and overall profitability, says Bonnie Smith, GM of FCM.
“Tech tools and software have proven to be a game changer for travellers and companies looking to reduce travel costs. And with the South African economy facing a triple whammy of higher inflation, energy prices and interest rates in 2023, there is no better time to upgrade your travel booking with the help of a travel management company (TMC) and explore new technologies in the travel industry,” she says.
So, what’s on the horizon for travel tech that will help businesses cut costs and, most notably for their employees, ease the current travel pain points? Here’s what’s new for travel technology in 2023.
Contactless travel and biometric recognition
Bottlenecks and delays at check-in are a pandemic hangover travellers continue to encounter. However, biometric identifiers, like fingerprints or iris scans, already used at some airports, could make this a thing of the past for good. They allow travellers to move through the airport without presenting paper documents. The US Transportation Security Administration is also testing technology that matches facial images with ID photos, which is a big step towards contactless travel.
Suppose the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has its way; in that case, the days of having to fumble through your carry-on to find your passport or health credentials every time you travel will soon be over. IATA’s One ID project aims to democratise biometric recognition and streamline travel processes. This means you’ll be able to prove your identity and compliance with all travel requirements even before you go to the airport.
“This is a great opportunity for TMCs to integrate their tools with biometric technology, and it’s definitely the new frontier for business travel,” Smith says.
Seeing is believing – VR and AR
Wouldn’t it be great to get a taste of your hotel, resort or destination before you even leave? Virtual and augmented reality technologies make this possible. Marriott, Best Western and Holiday Inn are already taking advantage of this by offering virtual tours to their guests. Augmented reality promises to enhance the travel experience by providing details about local destinations that can be displayed on mobile devices when travellers point their devices at them. Overall, AR and VR promise to truly enhance the travel experience and aid in decision-making at the booking stage.
Traveller tracking and mobile apps
Duty of care became a priority for companies during the pandemic, and it’s here to stay thanks to the ongoing travel risks that the effects of climate change and political upheaval will inevitably impose on travellers. That means you can expect significant advances in real-time traveller tracking that will allow bookers to instantly see where all their travellers are, share and communicate real-time travel alerts, and coordinate their return if necessary.
For Smith, the mix of cutting-edge tech with the human contact that a TMC offers is just what travellers need. “Many people prefer to talk to a consultant when things change and knowing that you can get in touch with a travel manager 24/7 goes a long way toward reducing stress.”
Beating the battle of lost bags
One of the headline winners of last year’s travel challenges was lost, delayed or damaged luggage. According to a report from the US Department of Transportation, nearly 1.5 million pieces of luggage fell victim to this fate in the first half of 2022.
Current methods, such as barcodes, are clearly no longer up to the job, prompting many travellers to invest in tracking tools such as Apple AirTags and Smart Luggage ID tags. Just as TMCs can determine the whereabouts of their travellers at any given time, the introduction and integration of Bluetooth technology into travel platforms could signal the end of luggage going AWOL.