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The future of the business travel sector This year’s ITB Berlin highlighted the huge impact of technology on business travel

Zukunftsmusik für die Geschäftsreisebranche: Diesjährige ITB Berlin spiegelte großen Einfluss von Technologie auf Business Travel-Segment wider

The latest innovations in travel technology have completely altered the consumer’s perception of travel. Nowadays, users constantly communicate their impressions via social media and use voice-controlled apps for managing devices, finding their way around or ordering food. Travellers want to benefit from all these innovations not just on holiday but on business trips too. These employee demands mean that travel managers now face new challenges. As well as offering travel services they must also keep abreast of the latest gadgets that make travelling easier.

One area of the travel sector undergoing major change is the hotel trade. With Generation Y and Z customer numbers growing, hotels are making an unprecedented effort to attract them. Apps for checking in and out, registering and accessing one’s hotel room have already become a reality. An app by Conichi sends its customers check-in reminders, similar to airline practice, thus spanning a digital bridge between keen smartphone users and the conventional hotel trade.

The car hire business is also undergoing constant change. Companies including Europcar and Sixt are moving ahead with voice-controlled apps. The carmaker BMW is working on making Alexa and co. available to drivers. Self-driving vehicles represent a genuinely revolutionary approach, even if they are unlikely to become reality in the near future. Alex Bainbridge, an expert on developing destinations, believes they could be used for spontaneous sightseeing tours between appointments, for instance. They could also function as small meeting rooms. Not least, they might become a viable alternative to airport cabs, in particular by transporting visitors to places where they do not know their way around. In the future there will probably be more to business trips than self-driving cars, says Bainbridge. One possibility might be drone taxis that could be ordered by clicking an app. As business travellers are always under time pressure, they could well become their first users.

This year’s ITB Berlin amply demonstrated the huge impact of technology on the travel industry. In recent years the Travel Technology segment has contributed significantly to the show’s growth. In addition to tour operators there were many exhibitors who specialised in business travel. They included Tickets Travel Network, one of the largest travel distribution companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which receives more than 18,000 bookings daily and among other things develops interfaces, white label solutions and online-based booking tools for large companies.

Hotelbird deals with interfaces and white label solutions in order to create a seamless user experience for checking in and out and registering in a large number of hotels, and Acomodeo is working on unifying the ever-expanding but extremely fragmented market for serviced apartments.

Besides the drive for innovation there is another reason why this sector is developing so fast. Unorthodox market players such as Airbnb are setting a rapid pace. Customers who have already experienced the advantage of home-from-home accommodation on a private tour are likely to want a similar experience on their next business trip.

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