This article is contributed by Andy Watson SVP and GM, Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China, SAP Concur
Owners of untidy homes and weary business travellers may not realise that they have much in common until Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo came along. She made the connection clear.
Just like it’s possible − with the right method − to transform your chaotic home into a neat abode that sparks joy, it’s possible to turn business travel from pain to pleasure with some technological ingenuity.
Traditionally, before making their trips, business travellers need to:
- Manually conduct multiple searches for their desired flights and hotels. Bookings are done separately with the need to repeatedly key in personal and booking information.
- Manually consolidate multiple bookings in one place, often in a paper-based fashion with no capability for changes or real-time prompts and updates.
- Go through a tedious submission process for internal approval of trip.
- Diligently safekeep paper receipts collected along the trip.
- Laboriously go through paper receipts and key in details for claims upon return.
With modern, mobile-based travel and expense technologies, business travellers will be able to declutter all these processes, better organise their trips, and take more effective care of their own safety.
For instance, they could:
- Use smart apps to book all flights, hotels and rental cars, streamlining travel booking, claims and invoicing management from start to finish.
- Declutter − organise all their travel plans in one place, including personal arrangements done with their favourite travel service providers like Airbnb and Uber.
- Receive real-time flight alerts throughout their trip, and very coolly, get notified when a better seat becomes available.
- Link various frequent flyer accounts and reward programs on one platform, no matter whether they are travelling for business, leisure or both. This integration ability lets travellers save time on bookings and leverage a B2C experience, while staying within the policy needs of their company.
These features are particularly attractive for millennial travellers. And that’s an important demographic for corporates and travel companies to cater to because Asian millennials’ spend on international travel, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, is expected to increase by 1.6 times to US$340 billion by 2020. In Singapore itself, Expedia found that 84% of millennials travel at least once a year, higher than baby boomers (73%) and the Generation X (82%).
- Keep their company in the loop so it can render on-site assistance when the need arises. Modern apps can help firms proactively monitor weather, violence, system disruptions or other risks that may impact their travellers, communicate with them and connect them to expert support.
- Take pictures of their paper receipts, submit them instantly for claims and forget about safekeeping them. Some apps can automatically create, itemise and categorise charges in expense reports.
- Use apps to auto-submit hotel, restaurant and transportation e-receipts, or enable these vendors to submit their receipts directly to your corporate expense system. This paperless approach aids environmental preservation. Other sustainable options exist for modern apps – travellers may be able to optimise their routes based on emissions, be encouraged to consider the low carbon option of rail travel, and rent environmentally friendly cars from designated rental firms.
Looking beyond travellers themselves, all these capabilities can tidy up operations for finance managers and make their work a breeze.
The data of employees’ bookings across multiple channels all flow back to the finance team. The team gets more visibility and greater insights, so they can apply policy on direct bookings and better manage compliance and approvals. With this same data, the finance department could anticipate needs, predict challenges, identify opportunities on the fly, and tackle everything from taxes and compliance risk to mobile phone expenses and fraud. All in all, a company could create a best-in-class experience for its employee travellers while dramatically improving its financial controls and productivity organisation-wide.
Without doubt, technology can free employees of the mundane hindrances of travel, giving them a clear mind to get their business done. With business travel within Asia growing at twice the pace of the rest of the world, China being the world’s largest business travel market, and India and Indonesia forecast to be the globe’s fastest expanding markets over the next five years (clocking 11.3% and 8.7% respectively in compound annual growth), the time for firms to take action and put some joy into their travel and expense experience is now.