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How will Disruptor Services affect business travel in 2016?

Feb 5, 2016

Disruptor services are a relatively new development in the world of business travel, and can be best described as ‘an innovation that improves a product or service in ways the market doesn’t expect’. A great example of this is Skype; a product that came into the market and changed the nature of the ‘traditional phone call’, which could often charge pennies-by-the-minute for an international call.

More recently, 2015 has seen the rise of services such as Uber and Airbnb, alongside a plethora of helpful apps that link travellers to a service in creative, streamlined and innovative ways. Particularly for young, millennial travellers, there are hosts of services that can be purchased directly from a smartphone. We can now search for interesting accommodation, order an Uber taxi, have our clothes picked up, washed, ironed, and returned in a matter of hours, find a Wi-Fi hotspot, view restaurant menus and book tables, and meet like-minded individuals at the touch of a few buttons.

Disruptor services are becoming increasingly popular and Business Travel Direct predicts that this trend is only going to continue and grow stronger in 2016. The demand for these types of services are coming predominately from young, millennial travellers and travel managers themselves, and as the demographics of business travel continue to lean in the direction of ‘Generation Y’ (young adults aged between 25 and late 30’s), it’s these tech-savvy individuals who are changing and challenging consumerism in all industries, including business travel. We’re seeing an increasing demand to book using ‘mainstream’ or ‘commercialised’, trusted suppliers and brands, either online or in an app – the same kinds of brands and services that are often used to book leisure travel.

But what do these new services mean for business travel programmes?

Firstly, I do think it’s important to mention that whilst there are still some large areas of concern surrounding disruptor services, here at Business Travel Direct we recognise this demand as an opportunity rather than a challenge. For us, as a Business Travel Solutions Provider, it’s a chance to evolve within the industry and meet the needs of our clients. Our technology will evolve to meet these demands if it hasn’t done so already. Our online booking tool, powered by industry leaders Concur, has Uber and Airbnb integrated into the system, enabling our users access to millions of properties worldwide, and we certainly hope this has paved the way for other suppliers to open their doors and technology to the sharing economy. TripCase is one of our favourite itinerary-management apps and not only can you call your Business Travel Direct team from the app, you can also order an Uber taxi instantly.

Many of our competitors may find themselves instinctively throwing their arms around their services in an attempt to protect the more ‘traditional’ Travel Management Company (TMC) offerings, and instead will focus their energy on encouraging compliance. Whilst this has some benefits for the time being, in the long run they may find this an Herculean challenge, as 2016 will no doubt find the demand for disruptor services increasing dramatically and it’ll prove difficult to maintain. At Business Travel Direct, we’re supportive of open bookings and have the technology to track and report on spend even if the booking hasn’t been made through us. Consequently we’re seeing this trend as an opportunity to stay relevant, offer our clients what they need to improve their traveller experience, reduce leakage, and minimise expense claims.

However, there are still some serious conversations to be had with disruptor suppliers before they monopolise the business travel market, as there are elements of these services that raise concerns around duty of care, health and safety, and insurance. Whilst it’s always important to keep an ear to the ground, acknowledging and responding to market trends, it’s also critical that the safety of our travellers continues to remain our first priority. With the tragic global events of this last year, there is a focus now more than ever on traveller security and risk management, and right now, many disruptor services simply don’t offer the visibility we need to fulfil our duty of care to our clients and travellers. If you’re considering enabling your travellers to book using disruptor services, you’ll need to ensure that your risk management programme, whether it’s in-house or out-sourced to a TMC, has the capability to track your bookings from multiple arenas, alongside offering a communication platform to stay in touch with your travellers.

And lastly, whilst the demand for disruptor services is increasing across the UK and Europe, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to call an emergency meeting with your key stakeholders and change your policy overnight. There are many factors that need to be assessed and thoroughly analysed before making the decision to embrace this new travel economy and enabling your travellers to book Airbnb at will. Ultimately, disruptor services might not be right for every organisation and you’ll need to look at your travelling demographics; the demand, age group, company culture, size of your travel programme, and travel spend, before making any rash decisions. It’s our job as a Business Travel Solutions Provider to identify which services may benefit you, and which services have the potential to become a risk to the travel programme and the travellers themselves.