Expense management software: It’s everywhere.
Every business of every size has their own expense management system, and there are tons of options for finding the right fit and price.
But what about travel management software? Most businesses are still doing things the old way:
- Booking on sites made for consumers (like Booking.com and Expedia)
- Using a corporate travel agency to manage travel
- Managing travel with enterprise software that’s difficult to use
Corporate travel is a massive global market. Estimated to reach $1.6 trillion by 2020, corporate travel is likely the largest global market that has yet to be disrupted.
What the internet did to vacation travel agencies...this cycle hasn’t yet hit the world of corporate travel, but it’s happening now.
Why hasn’t corporate travel been fully disrupted yet?
Up until recently, it was simply too complicated to build an online travel agency (OTA) from scratch. This is a huge, unsexy project that most entrepreneurs either hadn’t thought of or hadn’t been to take on.
But that has changed in recent years.
There’s a new category of software: travel management. Just like major booking sites built for consumers, travel management software aggregates hotel and flight inventory directly from thousands of suppliers.
Of course there are some big differences in these tools versus the sites you use to book your flights to Disneyland. These tools come with business features built right inside the booking experience like traveler data management, travel policy adherence and approvals, expense automation, and reporting.
Who is disrupting the corporate travel industry?
The travel management software market is emerging fast and new players are entering the scene filled with more traditional travel management companies. Let’s take a look at the categories available to get a feel for all of your business travel management options.
There are small and large agencies that handle corporate travel booking. These businesses will either adapt by adding technology to their service offering, or they will largely go out of business as more consumer-grade travel tools and platforms become available for corporate travel.
Legacy corporate tools
Many of the enterprise platforms currently on the market were built in the 1990s to help corporations manage travel and track spend. These tools often befall the problems with classic corporate software—difficult to set up and use, with complex features.
What’s more, because these tools were built decades ago, many of them don’t integrate with new, affordable flight and hotel options. These tools will either modernize or they will be replaced by newcomers on the scene.
There are some sexy technologies on the market! Chief among them are artificial intelligence and chatbots. Imagine a mobile app that can guess what sort of bookings you prefer or what sort of support you need. These players can’t solve all of the business travel pains your company experiences, but they offer some helpful tools for the traveler on the road.
Travel management platforms
This last player category is an all-in-one tool for booking, managing, and tracking corporate travel. These platforms bring a startup mentality and ease of use while also offering more robust features like automated travel policy compliance and travel data analytics. Most importantly, these platforms allow business travelers to book their own trips, which is the preference for many of today’s travelers.
Which travel management solution should you choose?
Travel management platforms are the most successful at solving the really big problems with business travel booking, primarily the difficulty of implementing travel policies and controlling spend. Plus, they are simple and easy to use.
The consumerization of corporate software is so critical. If employees don’t like your travel tool, they won’t use it, meaning it can’t help you track or control spend. Most new travel management platforms were built with the end-user in mind. For this reason, this player category is the best poised to disrupt the corporate travel market.
In two to three years, every business will have a platform they use (just like every business uses Expensify or Xero or QuickBooks, etc.).
What to look for in travel management software
Travel management software can save a business both time and money by making the booking process seamless and offering cost-saving features like excellent trip inventory, policy compliance, and travel data analysis. These are the main features to look for:
- Easy for travelers to book for themselves within policy and get approved for trips outside of policy
- Easy for administrators to book trips for other travelers (securely save traveler data, save searches, receive travel booking requests, view and approve trips)
- Access to all of the inventory you see when searching trips in Google — this is so important for businesses looking to save money on travel
- A platform that is ready to scale and has enough runway to tackle big issues in business travel
- 24/7 travel support, preferably offered in the languages your business needs and offered via phone, email, and chat
- A great mobile experience for travelers on the go who need to quickly review their trip itinerary or access live support
Your flights will still get delayed sometimes. You might not always get extra legroom.
Technology can’t get rid of the fog in Amsterdam or the wind in Chicago. That’s why selecting a future-ready tool that’s ready to scale and offer you more is so important. You want the technology (and the service) to help your business and your travelers as much as possible.