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What’s happening in the world of business travel technology?

We take a look at what technology Australian business travellers are demanding, especially the tech-savvy Gen Ys.

Time on the road is time away from the office. Yet for the survival of organisations the world over, business travel is often key to ensuring the success of the business. Travellers will tell you that making the most of their time while out on the road is not only paramount to meeting their business objectives, but increasingly enhancing their personal lives.

With the advent of the smartphone and other mobile devices, including the development of new travel technology, the ability for travellers to remain connected at all times is increasingly being demanded. We’re seeing this particularly within the younger and more tech-savvy generations, as they move through the corporate ranks and demand access to the technology they have become accustomed to in their personal lives. The corporate sector now faces increased pressure to meet these connectivity needs for its business travellers or risk playing catch-up in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.

Specifically, businesses need to stay abreast of mobile technology and understand the needs and demands of their travellers for three key reasons:

  1. Productivity gains
  2. Employee satisfaction and talent retention
  3. Safety and security of employees.

What Australian business travellers are telling us

In April this year, CWT undertook an independent survey of 1,000 Australian business travellers to understand their behaviours and perceptions around technology and connectivity when travelling for business. Not surprisingly, the results show that when out on the road, business travellers cite numerous benefits to increased connectivity for both personal and business means. These include: collaborating with colleagues; enhancing the business traveller experience; making informed decisions; and staying in touch with personal contacts.

However, the research also indicates that 31 percent of business travellers aren’t provided with the right technology by their employer and they rate the standard as average, poor or very poor. Here it’s critical for organisations to understand how this impacts the traveller, in terms of productivity and employee satisfaction, in order to assess the costs being incurred more broadly on the business.

How the devices stack up

For the business traveller frequently out on the road or away for extended periods, the ability to connect with those back at home using mobile devices can add significant personal value, improve the work-life balance and enhance the overall travel experience.

Despite the introduction of iPads and other similar tablet devices, laptops are still the device of choice amongst business travellers; 11 percent of travellers have adopted the tablet device while 83 percent carry a laptop. In saying that, analysts do expect a rapid increase in the adoption of tablet devices during travel.

The findings also show that 61 percent of travellers carry a smartphone while out on the road, while 10 percent use both a smartphone and a standard phone.

Connectivity also plays an important role in recruiting and retaining talent. By offering business travellers the right tools and technology to carry out their work efficiently and effectively, organisations can improve traveller satisfaction, engagement and ultimately retention.

Travel managers, human resource departments and executive management teams need to work in consultation with their travel management company (TMC) and IT departments to arm their travellers with the right technology, connectivity and support. Here, TMCs can advise where technology can be best integrated into relevant aspects of the travel program to help limit travel policy violations, enhance security, support the travel process and ultimately reduce costs for the business.

We take a look at what technology Australian business travellers are demanding, especially the tech-savvy Gen Ys.

The generation gap

Younger, savvier and more socially connected, Gen Y offers a unique insight into the way business travel is likely to evolve in Australia. With Gen Y travellers accounting for 33 percent of the group surveyed, it’s safe to say that today’s business travel force is strongly represented by a younger and more tech-savvy traveller. They simply have higher expectations when it comes to connectivity in the workplace.

We’ve found that Gen Y business travellers are much more positively predisposed to using technology when travelling for business, while Baby Boomers are less so. Gen Y travellers are also more likely to: enjoy travelling for business (76 percent always enjoy travelling for business); use advanced devices (71 percent use smartphones); realise more benefits in having the technology (41 percent would refuse to travel to a destination where they would not be connected for fear of their safety); and use online social networks (64 percent access social media).

Gen Y travellers have also become reliant on being contacted with real time news and updates as they’re already accustomed to this way of receiving information. Specifically, many businesses are now using SMS to track and inform travellers to ensure travellers’ safety and wellbeing, particularly in times of crisis.

Social networking

Social networking and user-generated content are increasingly being adopted within business travel environments as their benefits to travellers become more apparent. Social media can be used at every stage of a trip; to obtain information on destinations, share recommendations on hotels, track flight information status, draw attention to service issues and interact with friends and colleagues.

It’s not surprising then that 82 percent of business travellers cite social contact as the greatest benefit of connectivity when out on the road. Despite this, just over 45 percent of all business travellers access personal and professional social media channels. While 40 percent of travellers access personal social media only, an impressive 18 percent use social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter for professional purposes.

Today, many organisations are still learning how to effectively make the most of social media, taking into account different communications practices and the potential accompanying risks. In this way, travel managers may conduct an audit to find out what works best for travellers in their organisation, and thus leverage the social media tools most suited to their needs.

Travelling in time – what’s ahead

With the world’s insatiable appetite for on-demand information and real time news, it’s safe to say that social media use will continue to grow amongst business travellers. Already we’re seeing organisations look at ways they can adapt to these appetite changes by offering a variety of tools and applications to travellers.

As a result, new business travel applications will become increasingly available, allowing travellers to realise the benefits they offer for both personal and professional means.  We’ll also see a new generation of media-savvy employees join the workforce, who will demand greater access to the tools they’re already accustomed to. Similarly, travel managers will increasingly use social media to facilitate communications with travellers, particularly during times of crisis, as well as to access valuable information for ongoing product and service improvements.

The road ahead for travel technology is wide, ever-changing and increasingly mobile.

Top tech travel tips

  • Businesses of all sizes need to pay close attention to the needs of travellers to ensure they are provided with the right tools to effectively carry out their business when travelling
  • Offering all the latest gadgets, devices, apps and more may not necessarily offer an advantage to travellers. Invest time up front to ensure that each adopted tool has been chosen to meet a specific need for the traveller. Overwhelming the traveller can be just as frustrating
  • Keep in mind that the right tools without the right connectivity or support will only frustrate and potentially disadvantage the traveller
  • No one solution will meet all needs for every business traveller. Understanding traveller characteristics, behaviours  and communication uses will help to identify the appropriate technology solutions to meet their needs
  • Emergency assistance ensures that travellers can always receive help as required. Various tools and services also help ensure organisations provide the right duty of care to travellers

Peter Brady is Managing Director CWT Australia and New Zealand.

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