The business travel sector is worth over US$745bn a year worldwide and is increasingly driven by powerful technology and technical innovation.  Complex technology infrastructure is needed to manage an incredibly large number of people and transactions around the world at any one moment.  Bill Brindle, Business Technology and Distribution Director at corporate travel services company, Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), explains how the IT operation improves the customer’s experience.

In the corporate travel sector, it is essential to remain ahead of the curve and adapt to changing travel requirements, policies and budgets.  At HRG, we are continually developing opportunities through technology to overcome the complications in the booking process and make life easier for modern day business travellers.

Read the CIO UK interview with Bill Brindle of Hogg Robinson

In the rapidly changing business travel marketplace, there is an increasing burden on the booking systems as more and more transactions need to be seamlessly incorporated.  More so than ever before, people expect to search and be presented with all the available options before they book, so they can choose the most appropriate decision based on convenience and best value.

New developments

A 2009 report from travel industry market researchers PhoCusWright found that seven in ten frequent business travellers are using smartphones.  In response to this, travel management companies are starting to introduce a series of mobile services. Traveller support tools will be accessible on PDAs, such as Blackberrys or iPhones, by providing access to mobile-friendly web pages, easily accessible on a PDA screen.  While there is currently little demand to access full booking services on mobile devices, increasingly we expect business travellers to use our services on their PDAs to consult travel itineraries, find local information on restaurants or local facilities, search for availability on travel options or get updates about security and expected delays.

Videoconferencing technology has been another option which has had an increasingly significant role to play in managing travel budgets.

Soon there will be ability to incorporate video conferencing options into travel booking tools so that the best nearby options are provided in all searches. In fact we see no reason why booking tools and shopping functionality should not be directly integrated into Microsoft Outlook with Office Communication Server (OCS) in the future.  This will allow meeting requests to act as the start of the booking process by synchronising travel plans with calendars.

Open source technology standards

At HRG, we have heavily invested in a suite of products designed to make the whole travel process more efficient for travellers, bookers and corporate buyers.  Most importantly, we have developed what we call the Universal Super Platform based on a service orientated architecture (SOA) upon which all our travel tools are developed.  All our booking tools sit on this platform ensuring data is used consistently across all applications without the need to replicate data input.  The Universal Super Platform also means that HRG’s booking tools can be seamlessly integrated with a company’s existing systems, saving time and causing no disruption to day-to-day processes.

The Universal Super Platform is a type of ‘cloud service’.  Located online, it enables the target vendor to integrate clients’ and third party applications on the platform, without the vendor needing to know how the actual platform functions.  This means clients and service providers can fully integrate their systems seamlessly with HRG's software.  It supports the development of personalised applications by providing exposure to data and information embedded into the platform.   Currently target systems all work to specific APIs or web services.  Interoperability between players in the cloud becomes easier if we all follow a standard.

As travel accounts for such a significant proportion of any company’s controllable cost, the work of TMCs is more important.  In the current economic climate, clients are still focused on generating efficiencies and making budgets go further.  Exciting developments in technology will enable us to implement effective travel expenditure that can generate significant savings for businesses.

About the author:

Bill Brindle is Business Technology and Distribution Director at international corporate travel services company, Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), is responsible for ensuring the technology supporting the travel plans of thousands of business travellers runs smoothly.  Hogg Robinson Group plc (HRG) was established in 1845 and operates from headquarters in Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK.