Ashish Kishore, Managing Director, American Express Global Business Travel, India shares his perspective about corporate travel market in India and how his company has been contributing to make this more organized.
1. How would you explain the current status of corporate travel market in India? What is the growth prospect?
In our 2018 Global Business Travel Forecast we predicted that India’s burgeoning middle class and solid economic growth will cause demand for travel to surge throughout the year. This is consistent with the latest report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) which revealed India’s annual growth in business travel spend is at 11.4% – the largest rise among the top 15 business travel markets globally.
Despite some missteps in 2017, the Indian economy is the fastest growing in Asia, with its GDP growth set to top 7.4% in 2018. However, the Indian airline industry is growing at an even faster rate as favourable government policies; growing affluence, increased trade, and an aging transportation infrastructure are driving demand.
2. What sort of inefficiencies you see in corporate travel management today in terms of, compliance, approvals, etc.?
In a recent survey that we commissioned into traveler behavior and compliance, Indian business travelers were identified as being the most aware of company travel policies of the six countries surveyed. Despite this, 66% of Indian business travelers reported not booking within policy all of the time.
Workers can often believe they are making sensible decisions which save their company money when they book outside of travel policy, however these can result in false savings. When employees book outside of company policy, this travel is not tracked, and can affect the overall negotiating power of the company during their next contract review.
3. Do you think the corporates are using the mandated tools for booking? If yes what is the percentage? And how can as a vendor / Support system you can add value to this for increasing the adaption rate?
Our pre-trip booking tool, Expert Approval, helps companies increase travel policy compliance, and can deliver systems which require senior approval when travel is booked outside of company policy. Many of our clients globally use automated systems for booking travel, with great effect. However, such tools are not foolproof and need to be combined with other approaches such as education, and even incentivization to increase compliance.
4. How important is it for Corporate to have strict Compliance Policies? Do these policies support your relationship in the corporate or create showstoppers for your marketing efforts?
In our most recent survey, India was the only country where business travel policy compliance increased when the policies were more relaxed rather than strictly enforced. It’s an interesting revelation and suggests that Indian employees prefer autonomy and flexibility when arranging business travel, and that the company bottom line may be the better for it.
5. How important is Duty of care in your view? Are your systems and policies in sync with that of corporate to support them in achieving high level of commitment to Duty of care?
Duty of care is a critical concern for travelers and organizations. With the rise in global unrest, businesses are increasingly adopting various measures and processes to ensure safety of their business travelers. At GBT, we encourage businesses to adopt proactive planning, take the lead on duty of care and not wait for a crisis to occur. High levels of duty of care are essential elements of business travel planning. For companies with many travelers on the road, an automated system makes the most sense since you do not want to be wasting time making dozens of phones calls manually.
Our most recent research with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) showed more than a third (37 per cent) of travel managers saw a rise in enquiries relating to traveller safety. But it appears that a significant number of organisations do not have the systems required to quickly address these concerns. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of travel managers claim not to have had a detailed emergency plan in place.
GBT’s Expert Care is a tool that greatly assists with employer duty of care obligations. The platform enables organizations to track employees in real time, and to send them alerts and communication via text when required. These tools integrate well with existing duty of care policies, enabling companies to have visibility over their employees while on the road and to adequately support them when they need it most.
6. Do you think time has come to use digitization and AI to support day today repetitive activities for better support and deliverable to corporate segment? Are they any initiatives you are taking towards this?
We see significant potential in new technologies such as AI for business travel, and our recent research with ACTE revealed that 32% of travel managers in “younger” organizations are interested in using AI to understand and influence business traveler behaviors.
Given the enthusiasm with which the industry has adopted innovations like mobile apps, it is only a matter of time until the use of AI and chatbots in managed travel becomes widespread.
Currently, few have actually deployed such innovations, and while there is major scope for digitization and AI to improve customer outcomes, this will always need to be balanced with the need for human interaction. During travel disruptions in particular, our Travel Counselors often need to adapt quickly and provide peace of mind to travelers to put them at ease and solve their challenges.
7. How and where do you think predictive analytics help?
For several years we have mined T&E data to understand traveller behaviour, and aide future decision making. Using predictive analytics, companies can mine and analyse troves of T&E data, for example, at scale to enhance decision making, from driving spend patterns to managing negotiated rates or preparing for rising hotel costs. Machine learning advancements have the potential to strip the laborious aspects of analysing data for travel program managers, allowing them to spend more time taking action.
Machine learning and predictive analytics are complementary but separate technologies. Machine learning is better suited to transforming or extending data sets to make them more useful, while predictive analysis allows businesses to improve the way they use these transformed data sets to deliver value
For example, GBT’s Premier Insights will take the masses of data and allow “what-if scenarios” so travel managers can be ahead of the game and influence behaviour. You could predict what the savings would be if every individual in your company adopted advance purchase behaviour or booked premium economy on a certain route.