As Andrew O’Connor of the air transport tech company SITA said in a recent CNBC report: “Your mobile phone will become your remote control to manage your travel.”
For business travelers, this is already the reality. Mobile devices have been an essential travel assistant for some time, helping corporate travelers plan, book, and navigate their journeys end-to-end. As all of us become hyperconscious of the surfaces we touch outside the home and strive to minimize physical contact in public, business travelers are becoming increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to travel.
Research on the go
Unlike before when planning a business trip may have been a routine process for frequent travelers, pre-trip research on safety protocols, travel restrictions, and suppliers’ cleaning measures is a must. Travelers may waste hours browsing various sites and apps to find the information they need to assess the travel risks and make adequate preparations, but we have made this task a cinch with our briefing platform, Travel Vitals™. The tool, which has been optimized for mobile and is best experienced through our Amex GBT Mobile app, compiles pertinent COVID-related updates from hundreds of sources, so travelers can find the answers they’re looking for in a single place.
Over the years, corporate travelers increasingly have used their mobile phones to book trips. According to a 2019 report by Hospitality Technology, 80% of surveyed business travelers have booked and paid for a trip on their device. Our clients’ travelers can book door-to-door trips using Amex GBT Mobile or our online booking tool, Neo™, which also has been integrated with Travel Vitals to help travelers make informed decisions during the booking process.
By now, we imagine most business travelers have shifted to touchless travel by using their smart phones for flight check-ins and mobile boarding passes to avoid touching the kiosk screens at the airport, but we also recommend they employ their own device for in-flight entertainment instead of the airplane’s in-seat systems.
Acting as a trip lifesaver
Perhaps most importantly, mobile devices play a crucial role in salvaging a trip when things don’t go as planned. Travelers can quickly manage travel disruptions with up-to-the-minute updates about flight cancellations, delays, and airport gate changes delivered through travel management company and carrier apps. And as we witnessed when helping to repatriate tens of thousands of travelers due to flight cancellations and travel restrictions earlier this year, their mobile phones became a valuable lifeline during that period, allowing them to call or chat with our travel counselors and get help finding an alternative way back home.
After finding out what airlines are cancelling flights, travelers have the option to chat with our travel counselors through the Amex GBT Mobile app or the Messages app on iPhone or iPad devices via Apple Business Chat. When there’s an emergency, companies enrolled in our Expert Care™ duty of care solution also can send travelers push notifications through Amex GBT Mobile.
Fostering contactless experiences and transactions
While some business travelers may dislike the impersonal nature of self-service that’s been growing in the hospitality industry, this is now viewed as a benefit – a way to reduce physical contact and limit exposure.
To avoid crowding at the reception desk during check-in, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, and other hotel brands offer through their apps mobile check-in as well as keyless entry so guests can access their room and other areas of the hotel without a physical keycard. With the Hilton Honors app, guests also can control the room temperature, lighting, and TV, while Marriott’s Bonvoy app lets them chat directly with the hotel’s front desk.
As consumers aim to limit the use of cash and high-touch credit card readers, we’ve seen a greater adoption of contactless payment systems and anticipate this trend to have a steep upward trajectory in the years to come. Our own solution, Virtual Payment Expert™, powered by Conferma Pay, enables travelers to use single-use virtual card numbers for hotel transactions, eliminating the need for physical currency and exchanges.
Travelers also do not need to worry about swiping a credit card or managing paper receipts when using apps from ride-haling services like Uber and Lyft, or our very own Ground Transportation solution to get where they need to go by ground. They can book, manage, and pay for their ride entirely through their smart device.
Meal ordering also is being conducted mainly by mobile. Airports, hotels, and restaurants are using QR codes to enable diners to order food so they can avoid picking up a physical menu. Business travelers who wish to reduce their exposure also may want to order room service, often available through the hotel app, or employ a food delivery app like Grubhub or Uber Eats.
For those rare transactions when a paper receipt is issued and necessary to save for reimbursement purposes, an expense tool that uses optical character recognition technology to convert the image of the receipt into raw text can be used. This means, once uploaded, you can toss the receipt and enjoy a paperless expense claim process.
The possibilities are limitless
What other amazing things travelers can do with their phones will only grow from here. Knowing how connected travelers are to their smart devices, travel companies have been working on new mobile tools and features to satisfy customer preferences for years. Now with safety and contactless experiences becoming top travel priorities, travel providers are scrambling to release and develop new technology to keep up with consumer demand. We also anticipate they will begin integrating other technologies, such as augmented reality and voice command, into the mobile experience.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. With the advent of 5G, travel companies will harness the power of this exponentially faster wireless technology to deliver even better mobile experiences – and we aim to the same.
As Raksa Ouk, senior director of digital traveler experience and product marketing, explains: “GBT continues to lean strongly into our mobile-first approach to arm our clients with information and capabilities that help them feel confident and safe about returning to travel. We expanded our direct-to-live travel counselor messaging capabilities globally and delivered a new feature called Travel Program Notification that enables companies to send important push notifications directly to their travelers from within the Amex GBT Mobile app, ensuring the information is at their travelers’ fingertips.”