Gone are those days when we had to depend on a travel agent, owing to newer alternatives, that not only reduce our work load but also contribute to the automation of processes. To cater the flourishing market trends & demand, travel companies continue to improve their services and challenge their own benchmarks. They look forward to sustainable development in a surrounding which has too many competitions in variant sectors. Here are few points shared by Neeraj Dotel, managing director, India & SAARC, SAP Concur on various tech trends in the travel industry.
Q. What are the emerging technologies that can revolutionize the travel, expense and invoice industry and how?
A. The travel, expense and invoice industry is rapidly evolving along with the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and big data. Dynamic growth in business travel and increasing customer expectations are important factors that have made it a sector that is highly driven by technology.
Disruptive technological tools like AI and ML are at an evolutionary tipping point and are reaching new levels of maturity. ML is being used extensively to gain more visibility into travel and expenses, which has shown a positive impact on savings. It actively helps companies to anticipate the future, but enable a better understanding of behavioural economics, gain critical insights into business travel behaviour, spending patterns and more. It also helps in the reduction of traveller stress through applications such as predictive pricing, forecasting potential for flight delays and rebooking flights after tickets have been purchased.
Q. Can you brief more on the role of ML and AI here?
A. With machine learning, companies can help ensure employees secure the travel vendors they want while increasing traveller satisfaction, as well as maintaining us compliance and cost savings. These types of advancements in the sector allow travellers and companies to make even smarter travel decisions. ML and AI are becoming ubiquitous as they turn static travel policies into dynamic policies while building an incentive component that works for both the company and the traveller.
Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, helps companies create customised plans based on customers’ requirements and preferences. Past behaviours are fed into AI computers to predict future purchase actions. Deep learning algorithms help make the most out of their customers’ online activities. AI brings customised suggestions during the trip based on a traveller’s profile, location, time and other data-based parameters. With AI, the output of these technical processes can bring a more natural experience to the traveller. AI technology dedicated to travellers also helps companies in decision making, managing predictive maintenance, and handling disruptions like weather conditions.
Q. How do Bots help in improving the user experience and what are the key technologies used here?
A. The arrival of chatbots has immensely benefitted the businesses. A chatbot is basically a program, which is designed to simulate human conversation using Artificial Intelligence. This personalised tool helps users reduce long hours of indecisive research. They help in saving business travellers time. Following are a few specialities of bots:
With Keywords such as “search” or “flights”, the bots will display flight search fields, allowing you to filter by destination, departure and return dates, fare class, preferred airlines, and more
Instead of sending flight options back and forth over email, people can now look up flights within their Slack conversation talking about travel plans. One can share trips or look up flights in real time with colleagues
Once flight selections are made, the bot will use the profile to auto-populate saved payment and reward program information for seamless booking
Bots automatically import the itinerary thereby, creating an expense entry for flights.
Chatbots have now become one of the trendiest words. It is predicted that chatbots will disrupt the travel industry and set a new standard. As the mobile-booking share is flourishing on a global scale, it is expected to become 70 percent of all digital booking by 2019. Chatbots and AI adoption have changed the scenario. Along with providing quick response throughout a traveller’s journey, bots are becoming more personal than human operators.
Q. Why was the need felt for such an automated cloud-based solution as compared to on-premise solutions?
A. Cloud Computing or software as a service (SaaS) has brought a huge difference in the ways in which business is done today. Organizations have become more comfortable with the data security aspects of pushing data to the cloud. It boils down to understanding the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the On-premise and Cloud options. The Cloud solution includes regular updates that accelerate an organization’s ability to get hold of the latest fixes and the functional enhancements. The On-premise version relies on an organization’s ability to pause any development work and focus on a period of maintenance and regression testing periodically.
Moving to the cloud can immediately put an end to the old system of paper-based receipts and expense claims. When an employee books a trip, whether inside or outside your booking tool, the costs and details can be automatically imported into an expense claim ready for sign off on their return. This efficiency makes everyone’s life easier, saves time and increases productivity.
Cloud Computing is seeing significant demand in the marketplace as organizations look to maintain a lower TCO and focus on increased transparency.
Q. What are the various clouds based different solutions that you offer and who are the primary target audience for these? How will it help them?
A. SAP Concur is a cloud-based provider of travel, expense, and invoice management solutions. With Concur Travel and Concur Expense, customers can make their air and hotel bookings and upload expenses anywhere, anytime with an Internet connection. Approving expense reports, updating expense claims and much more can be done with absolute ease on the Concur mobile app. The cloud-based solutions require no hardware, software, maintenance or expensive time-consuming upgrades, delivering innovation automatically while keeping organizations compliant with government and industry regulations. We have intelligent tools built with the machine learning so that receipts are added to the expense report right from the inbox.
Q. How do you see the growth of AI, machine learning in India over the next 5 years?
A. Artificial Intelligence has slowly stepped into every aspect of our life be it the way we work, leisure or travel. It’s hard to find an avenue that AI hasn’t touched upon. It is like the new business game changer with AI taking strides in making humans work smarter and ensuring work meets demands. AI can have various use cases like recommending products based on individual tastes and preferences, detecting security intrusions and connecting with customers on multiple platforms to meet their varied demands. It is enhancing self-driving software, making expense management and other business processes simpler with fewer pain points and minimal human intervention. Artificial Intelligence also gives employees more time to focus on their core business activities.
Disruptive technologies like AI and ML are transforming how consumers plan to travel while offering companies a cut in operating costs. Artificial intelligence is changing the rules for the travel industry and the ability to predict the behaviour of travellers is unlocking new revenue opportunities for travel players. Without a doubt, exciting times are ahead, and AI will be at the forefront of this revolution. India is on a path to become a tech powerhouse and the adoption of AI has been good so far. It is estimated that AI will boost India’s annual growth rate by 1.3 percentage points by 2035.
Q. What according to you, were the latest major projects/assignments that have led SAP Concur to its successful milestone?
A. It has been quite an eventful year. We’ve witnessed an increased need from companies to manage employee spend. As a result, SAP Concur recently crossed the 44,000-client mark, representing more than 58M end users around the world using our services.
That milestone is a testament to the amazing team of people at SAP Concur whose mission is to help clients operate more efficiently and grow the bottom line. We’re committed to driving innovation, finding new ways that technology can improve business processes and reduce costs. It is what motivates us every day and will continue to motivate us in the new year.