Travel innovation – the new way of doing things

The race to innovate and digitise travel has always been competitive. While the events of 2020 put the entire value chain under pressure, the travel industry has always been resilient and used the challenge to accelerate innovation in digitisation, develop new technologies and enhance business models to get business back on track.

Here are the three biggest drivers of change:

1. Innovation in Digitisation

AI has existed for decades, and we interact with this daily, often without realising it. Essentially AI refers to a computer that performs tasks that a human would. For example, at a basic level, identifying which mail must be moved to the spam folder.

In the travel industry, AI digitises and automates pain points to create a seamless travel experience. An example is the Hilton Hotels interactive robot concierge, Connie, which uses AI and speech recognition to provide information to travellers. AI also offers extreme value in creating smart hotel experiences, enabling guests to remotely check-in, select a room and unlock the room with a digital key.

2. New travel technologies

A key innovation focussed on solutions to the ever-changing health protocols to reassure consumers that it was safe to travel. Travel information hubs and apps were developed to keep travellers updated with the latest health and safety requirements and keep travellers abreast of any changes 24/7. Digital Heath Passports were developed to build trust between countries and passengers by sharing health information via a QR code to increase the freedom of movement.

Another high-ticket item is the need for contactless payment solutions. A recent BCD survey shows that more than 65% of travellers have cited contactless payment as a key factor in returning to travel. To this end, BCD Travel has developed an automated, cloud-based platform to simplify and automate the payment and reconciliation process. BCD Pay uses AI and machine learning to produce a frictionless, digital payment process. Using the “Smart Payment” rules engine, the platform seamlessly orchestrates payment, invoices and receipts during the trip with additional key features to review, manage and audit T&E spend.

During the pilot phase, BCD Pay delivered a 75% improvement in the cycle time of end-to-end data, reconciliation, reporting and data integration across a fragmented ecosystem of back offices, ERP systems and credit card issuer systems.

3. Enhanced Business Models

Many businesses have had to revert to start-up models, get back to basics and review business models to move forward sustainably.

Subscription-based models are driving value by providing cost security, cost savings and stability in a chaotic market. For example, in June 2020, Rennies BCD Travel launched its travel as a Service (TaaS) Subscription Model. The model allows travellers to select their price package based on everyday transactions at a reduced rate to improve line of sight for travel expenses.

The pandemic highlighted areas in the travel industry that needed fixing, and businesses met the challenge head-on. The fittest survived by creatively tackling the issues at hand, showing great agility and resilience. Embracing innovation, adapting to the new normal and adopting a digital-first approach will future-proof the road to recovery.