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OBTs and the internet most impactful innovations on business travel in last 30 years

OBTs and the internet most impactful innovations on business travel in last 30 years

Business Travel Show Europe is 30 this year and, to celebrate visitor registration officially opening for the event on 19-20 June at ExCeL, London, organisers have revealed new data showing buyers believe online booking tools have had as big an impact on business travel in the last three decades as the internet.

127 travel and procurement managers took part in the poll in April 2024. 45% from the UK, 41% mainland Europe and 13% rest of the world. They could choose up to three innovations each, with more than half (51%) voting the internet and OBTs in joint first place, followed by E-tickets and mobile apps (41%), GDS (37%) and the smartphone (25%).

BTN Group Executive Vice President Louis Magliaro: “No one can question the impact the internet has had on business travel but let’s spare some praise for OBTs, too, which have revolutionised the way we plan, book and manage corporate travel. And, boy, how they’ve changed since 1994. These days, customer interfaces and experiences are akin to leisure and entertainment apps: intuitive, quick and enjoyable to use. And they are helping businesses – and travellers – to make more sustainable and healthier travel decisions, too.”

3: E-tickets and mobile apps: can you imagine having to go back to a wallet full of paper tickets and physical documents, (more) painful check-ins, and no real-time updates or on-the-go itinerary management? Mobile apps also give managers access to expense tracking, travel alerts, traveller tracking and itinerary synchronisation.

4: Global Distribution Systems (GDS): a cornerstone of business travel, offering a centralised platform for accessing travel inventory enabling travel managers to efficiently compare options, secure bookings, and manage reservations across multiple suppliers, reducing costs and increasing accuracy.

5: The Smartphone: Perhaps the most transformative innovation in recent years, the smartphone has become an indispensable tool for corporate travel management. With advanced capabilities such as GPS navigation, voice recognition, and mobile payment options, smartphones have revolutionised every aspect of business travel and give travel managers access to the apps mentioned above.

Business Travel Show Europe also asked travel managers what they feel is ‘the most worrying development over the last 30 years to impact business travel’. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic came top.

1. The Pandemic: Travel restrictions, border closures, and health concerns severely disrupted corporate travel plans, leading to widespread cancellations, postponements, and uncertainty. But the industry has bounced back – and more quickly than many imagined.

2. Climate Change: Sustainability and emission reduction is probably the most important task facing corporate travel managers, especially with the phasing in of CSRD this year.

3. War and Geopolitical Unrest: Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Iran, Syria and more have made it more important than ever for corporates to implement robust travel risk management programmes, provide traveller safety training, and safeguarding employees.

4. Brexit: Brexit has introduced a new layer of complexity and uncertainty for corporate travel managers operating in Europe thanks to the implications of immigration regulations, customs procedures, trade agreements and visa requirements.

Magliaro added: “Over the last 30 years, the five innovations topping our poll – plus the many thousands more that exist - have collectively transformed the landscape of business travel management. These technological advancements have empowered corporate travel managers with unprecedented efficiency, flexibility and control, while also enhancing the overall travel experience for business travellers.

“As we look ahead, continued innovation in technology is poised to further revolutionise corporate travel management, driving greater convenience, cost savings, sustainability, traveller wellbeing and satisfaction in the years to come. And there’s no better place for buyers to discover them than at Business Travel Show Europe, which has consistently provided a platform for innovation since 1994.”