Human expertise trumps online travel booking

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The COVID-19 has not led to higher levels of online booking adoption among business travellers, according to the second poll in a multi-national ‘State of the Market’ study by FCM Travel Solutions.

Consolidation of bookings through a TMC emerged as a priority change in post-COVID-19 travel policies with 21% of respondents in the study saying that they would not shift to higher levels of online booking adoption. Furthermore, 59% of participants said that traveller and supplier health and hygiene factors would be top priority. Duty of care obligations ranked the second most dominant area for change (44% of respondents).

A total 1,600 business travel managers, bookers and travellers at FCM’s multinational large-scale clients and Corporate Traveller’s SME customers in EMEA, Asia, the Americas, India, Australia and New Zealand were surveyed again in the second poll in June 2020. The purpose of repeating the study within one month of the first poll was to enable both TMCs to gauge any shift in clients’ business travel intentions as countries continue to review lockdown restrictions, implement quarantine periods or air corridors, and airlines and hotels introduce hygiene measures.

Asked to rank which triggers would prompt resuming business travel, easing or lifting border restrictions still came top with 93% of respondents saying it has significant or some impact. However, the second trigger (89%) is ‘our organisation deems it safe to travel and this is reflected in our travel policy’.

As a result of these findings, FCM is ramping up its duty of care support for customers, starting with the launch of Traveller Hub, an interactive resource providing extensive up-to-date COVID-19 travel information. Users can search by supplier category, country or region for the latest news on border changes and restrictions; airline routes and safety procedures for travellers; hotel re-openings and hygiene measures; as well as rail travel and car hire announcements.

Traveller resources also include tips, frequently asked questions and useful links to help customers plan and pack for their next trip safely. The Traveller Hub also features a live interactive map, delivered by travel safety specialist Sitata, which shows areas to avoid, number of COVID-19 cases per country, recovery rates, and local social distancing rules.

In addition, Traveller Hub incorporates an innovative AI conversation-based messaging tool on the home page provided by cutting-edge technology developer Landbot. This powerful chatbot is embedded in the site and enables users to seek answers to any coronavirus-related travel questions in a live chat environment.

The Traveller Hub is fully integrated within FCM Hub, the gateway to the TMC’s suite of technology solutions. It can also be accessed via Sam, the AI-based mobile app used by both FCM and clients’ business travellers.

“As the world is collectively going through a crisis, it is essential to understand the emotions, fears and underlying motivations of employees and clients,” says Bonnie Smith, GM FCM. “The second poll of our State of the Market survey showed that although there is an increasing sense of our clients needing and wanting to travel, the world is an increasingly unpredictable place, so the health and safety of business travellers are, more than ever before, at the top of the corporate agenda. We are therefore even more focussed on giving clients the best possible support and resources in this respect and are excited to announce the launch of Traveller Hub.”