Disruption is a critical factor in moving the corporate travel industry forward. Major disruption is often followed by periods of stagnation, but new players are shaking up the status quo today. Giant advancements in technology, specifically machine learning, are making corporate travel better, more effective and efficient, and more personalized than ever.
Still on the high from GBTA, we at TripActions are thinking about the most pressing technologies moving business travel forward in creative and innovative ways. And the best source of that reflection comes from the conversations with our own incredible customers, partners and collaborators, as well as the industry-leading talks from our own TripActions founders.
TripActions co-founder and CEO Ariel Cohen took to the mainstage at GBTA for a panel titled Travel Technology: Disruptors or Problem Solvers?
Ariel was joined by Mickey Beyer-Clausen, who created the app TimeShifter to personalize jet lag strategies based on sleep and circadian neuroscience, and Ali Bora Isbulan, who wants to disrupt access to 600 airport lounges with his app LoungeMe.
“Our industry has been a hotbed of innovation. Early technology pioneers like Expedia and Priceline and now companies like Airbnb and Uber have created a new paradigm based on innovation and disruption. But the question for today for companies of all sizes is how you and your organization become innovators,” noted the panel moderator.
He argued that innovation is a matter of survival — to not only grow a company but avoid disruption.
Thirty minutes later, TripActions was voted the most disruptive company on stage by the thousands of corporate travel leaders in the audience.
Ariel started his talk with our evocative video — Powering In-Person Connections to Move Business Forward — which highlights our focus on delivering the best experience in business travel, leveraging both industry-leading technology and a human touch to delight enterprise finance, HR, procurement and travel program leaders and their travelers alike.
As the video says, “In business, what matters most is the connection. Business trips are about everything that happens outside of the meeting. That’s the business we’re in. The being there business.”
After a humble recognition that our passion for the user — all of them, all the time — is what drives us to innovate the corporate travel management model, product, service and experience, Ariel acknowledged the length of time that most in the audience have been in the industry and that they have every right to be skeptical — they heard what turned out to be false promises many times before. He even noted that we hear from prospects that TripActions must be “too good to be true”. Until they become customers and see for themselves.
We hear again and again how TripActions is helping to advance the corporate travel management industry while helping organizations of every size, industry, and geography to build and manage best-in-class travel programs. We are proud and humbled that many liken TripActions to similarly impactful disruptors like Lyft, Netflix, and Venmo in their personal lives, and DocuSign, Zoom, and Okta in their professional lives — all delivering a far better product, service, and experience than what was previously available by focusing on the user and helping them solve a problem instantly.
##AI and Machine Learning to Drive Adoption and Ultimately Satisfaction
“In TripActions, with the help of AI and machine learning, you can book your trip in six minutes” as compared to the industry average of 60 minutes, noted Ariel. “This is solving a problem for you instantly with the added benefit of TripActions supporting you 24/7. This is why travelers like our solution and why we see such high adoption. If you are managing a travel program, TripActions helps you do it without the constant tension with employees which organizations experience with other platforms.”.
This passion for leveraging technology for a better user experience has been at the root of TripActions’ 5x growth rate and rapid expansion to more than $1.3 billion in travel budget under management. Growth, however, must been done consciously when building a disruptive product.
“The most important factor is to think about the mission and to communicate it. It really starts with our focus on the user — that’s how we approach the market. We flipped the model to focus on the user — all of them, all of the time — from the traveler to the executive, the EA supporting travelers, the finance, HR and procurement leaders, and of course the travel program manager.” We work to ensure all of our users are happy by helping solve their unique challenges.”
##Taking a Comprehensive Approach
After a question designed to raise eyebrows, Ariel responded how TripActions is much more than a “mouse trap” or just an online booking tool — it is a completely new, end-to-end solution to create the best experience in business travel. He also gave a sneak peek in just how large our ambitions really are.
“We never saw it as an online booking tool. We believe that today, in 2019, you have to build the entire solution. You have to book a trip, you have to support people on the go, and you need to fulfill every modality. If you noticed in the video, we map 40 different activities that business travelers are doing while they are on the go. We’re helping them to solve each of these so they can focus on what they need to accomplish while on a work trip, rather than the process of getting there,” Ariel explained. “We hope to become the default for business travel within the next five years.”
“I actually see it as a completely different way to think about business travel and the business travel experience. And that’s how our users are thinking about it too.”
Ariel also shared insights into the more personal factors around his work style and that which he brings to TripActions.
He spoke about his recent personal hack and practice of spending time alone in order to reflect. And concluded with what makes TripActions’ culture disruptive on an individual level.
“To become the default of business travel, you need to innovate and examine every step in business travel to ask why it is done a certain way,” Ariel said.
“Our culture is like that. Our culture says let’s question everything. We don’t have to empower our employees to think differently and innovate — that’s what they are already doing. And they are always placing the user — every user from the traveler to the EA to the CFO — first. Every user is accessing something new and innovative in front of them.”
##A Dive Into Machine Learning
Ariel’s presentation was followed up on Tuesday morning with Ilan Twig’s early morning session on revolutionizing corporate travel booking through machine learning.
For a deep dive into how machine learning is transforming corporate travel, download TripAction’s ebook Behind the Buzzwords: How Machine Learning Is Improving Corporate Travel.
Ilan began by highlighting how machine learning is already a part of our daily lives from our curated email inboxes to our evening Netflix suggestions. Machine learning and AI are some of the most innovative and evolving technologies, and quietly transforming our everyday interactions with technology and how we move throughout the world.
One example of AI today is the FaceApp, which uses thousands of photos as training data, searching for features of elder women and men, and applies that data to your face.
Ilan then dove into the details of machine learning and how machines have evolved to learn from experience, or in their case — data, just like humans learn from experience.
What does this have to do with corporate travel, travel planners, and their employees stuck at the airport after a missed connection? Ilan explained that booking corporate travel is a means to an end and should be quick and easy.
Therefore, machine learning can be used to make that process as efficient and accurate as possible, such as predicting within 30 seconds which users are going to book and what they are going to book with 90%+ accuracy.
As Ilan concluded, the future of corporate travel could be very simple. Users input where and when they need to arrive, and machines automatically generate a unique itinerary that is right for each individual user. This technology is backed by human support — and of course the human interaction that you are traveling to have in the first place.
Afterall, TripActions is here to power the human connections that drive people, ideas, and businesses forward. And machine learning can be our travel companion by driving personalization and efficiency — and thereby traveler satisfaction and adoption —- in corporate travel.
Isn’t that what we’re all after — creating and enjoying the best experience in business travel?
Ready to learn more about how machine learning is improving corporate travel? Check back to download the TripAction’s ebook Behind the Buzzwords: How Machine Learning Is Improving Corporate Travel here.