‘Keep up on mobile’, Sabre warns travel management firms

The latest biannual mobile travel survey of business travellers by GDS Sabre has underlined the extent to which handheld devices are establishing themselves as a vital component of corporate travel.

The survey concludes that businesses travellers are demanding the same level of convenience and functionality from their devices when on business as they do in their everyday lives.

And the study comes with this warning: “…corporations and travel management companies must meet those needs or risk being left behind”.

The results contrast with the last time the survey was done in 2009 revealing a marked increase respondents’ propensity to use their phones while travelling both as a source of information and commerce.

This mirrors the exponential growth in the penetration of mobile devices, particularly smartphones, in the last two years which has grown to around a third in the US and the UK in 2011 and is forecast to rise to around 50% by 2014 according to eMarketer.

The Sabre survey of business travellers found:
• 63% want to receive destination specific offers on their devices. This was 85% up on 2009;
• 47% use their device to view or receive advertisements, a 95% increase on 2009;
• 72% were interested in using their devices to view hotels on a map. The 2009 figure was 29%;
• 43% reported daily use of their device to access navigation services;
• 71% want to receive driving directions direct to their device.

Chris Kroeger, senior vice president of Sabre Travel Network, said: “Our survey shows that business travel today is personal. Travellers want the same functionality and convenience from their business travel tools that they have in their daily lives.

“People use travel services on their smart phones everyday for every trip – before during and after they travel. The corporate travel industry needs to keep pace with the service and apps that the traveller can access in their personal life and incorporate those into the world of managed business travel.”

Sabre expects the travel management companies of the future to adopt mobile technology to meet what the survey found was clear demand for location-based information.

Kroeger said: “Travellers will look for this information from suppliers, travel management companies and technology resources. Smart and savvy travel management companies will use technology as a way to fill this need and improve customer support and solidify customer loyalty.

“Consumers already rely on their mobile devices to help them navigate their way through cities and around the world. In the future they’ll look for mobile services that are not only location-based but contextually-aware such as airport navigational tools with the ability to find in-airport businesses but also have deals and offers pushed to their smartphone.”

In addition to using phones for information and advice, the survey found what appears to be pent up demand to use it as a ‘virtual wallet’.

Sabre found three quarters of respondents were interested in booking air options on their devices, more than two thirds wanted to make hotel reservations and 66% were keen to be able to add an hotel reservation to an existing itinerary.

However, it was car rental that showed the most significant results with 62% saying they were interested in making a booking on their mobile, up 32% on 2009, and 60% interested in shopping for vehicle rental, up 33%.

Kroeger added: “Tomorrow’s business travellers will move from physical passports, wallets and credit cards and will expect their mobile device to fill those needs as continued advancements in mobile payment, commerce and banking make it easier to electronically transact via mobile devices.”

The results of Sabre’s survey clearly reflect the accelerating growth of mobile since it was last done in 2009 and its own investment in the sector with products like its brand GetThere, its online travel management system.

While surveys of this nature ought always to be assessed carefully as what people say when asked may not reflect their future behaviour. But certainly technology providers like Sabre will be hopefully that the sentiments expressed in this survey does offer an insight into genuine customer sentiment.

The survey, which has just been concluded, was conducted among 800 business travellers split evenly across regions globally and included both frequent flyers and those who travel on less than four trips a year.

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