Data has always played a crucial role in business travel, but as David Thompson, chief technology officer for American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), explained in an article he penned for Phocuswire, it has taken on heightened importance today as we aim to safely get the world moving again. Here are a few key takeaways from the article.

Essential for duty of care

When travelers are faced with risk, they and their travel managers need fast and reliable answers to a variety of questions. Past examples of how data is used to answer duty of care questions give insight to its importance today.

“Fortunately, travel management companies (TMCs) have a vast array of data and are ideally positioned to help companies navigate the complexity of this new era,” David said.

For example, when a travel disruption occurs, TMCs can access real-time itineraries and credit card data to locate travelers and determine if they require assistance.

GBT also used data to help clients when there were safety concerns over the Boeing 737 Max aircraft in early 2019, and travel managers wanted to know which employees were booked on these planes.

“With access to complete traveler records, including the aircraft types booked, we quickly pulled the data and rerouted travelers with little or no disruption,” David explained.

Push for digital health information

For the moment, mandatory health screenings for COVID-19 at airports are manageable with the current volume of traffic, but some travel managers are already asking for the capacity to include a traveler’s immunology status in traveler profiles.

Contact tracing also may be required to cross borders, with travelers possibly allowing this data to be sent back to employers.

As David wrote, “To provide the scale necessary, these measures will require safe and reliable digital connections to travelers’ profile data. TMCs, therefore, need to have systems designed for end-to-end travel management that can easily support API connections.”

Addressing travelers’ questions

“Can I travel to this country?”

“What documentation do I need to present?”

“What’s the level of health risk?”

These are the sorts of questions people are now asking before booking a trip. To help travelers avoid jumping around from site to site to track down the answers, GBT has developed a search tool where they can find the information they need in a single spot.

“Instead of searching government, airline, and public health websites, our own Travel Vitals™ provides one place to get detailed answers. The data is easily searched and personalized per trip and available to all travelers, whether or not they are GBT clients,” David said.

Working together to create consistent standards

Industry organizations have begun working together to create consistent, universal travel standards that everyone can understand and easily implement.

This most likely will include more use of contactless technology and biometric data for airport and rail security checkpoints. There is also some demand for digital identification processes at self-service bag drops, boarding gates, and airport retail and duty-free outlets.

“This means travelers would need to present their data electronically to move more smoothly through the process,” David said.

Collaboration across different countries and regions will be key in kick-starting travel.

As David said, “TMCs and suppliers across the travel ecosystem must join with governments and industry organizations to fight for the right standards for safe travel.”

When that happens, “Travelers will have the confidence to get back on the road, travel companies will see volumes and revenue return, and the world economy will flourish as business trips bring people together once again.”

To read more, check out the full article on Phocuswire.