Have phone, will travel
Travel Business travellers use smartphones to access online information, book ahead and keep in touch with their travel manager, making travel safer and easier in today's troubled world.
Smartphones are making travel faster, easier and safer for globe-trotting executives. But there is a long way to go before they make professional travel managers redundant.
"Travel managers are concerned with three things - keeping people safe, controlling spend, and efficient processing of payments. Smartphones can help with all of them," says Catherine McGavock, Regional Vice President, EMEA, at the Global Business Travel Association.
One of the main advantages of a smartphone is the ability to keep on top of expenses, reducing a major chore to a few presses of a button. "You can process your expenses on the go - every time you make a payment on your corporate credit card you can code it, so you don't have to photocopy all your receipts and list them all manually when you get home," McGavock explains.
Smartphone apps created by hotel chains can smooth the weary traveller's way to their room. "So much simpler: get your phone to check in to your hotel from your car," McGavock says. "You can even get them to tailor your accommodation with a room on the first floor, a king size bed or a double, to the contents of the minibar."
With NFC or Bluetooth beacons, the phone even becomes your room key. "You don't have to queue at the desk and you can go directly to your room, get unpacked and prepare for your meeting."
But the major benefit of a smartphone with satellite location is safety in these troubled times. "Everybody has their phone on them at all times so you can easily keep in touch," she says. "In more dangerous areas of the world you can have a tracker on the phone so the person can check in regularly to say they are OK."
Social media can also be a great boon for business travellers, bringing the expertise and experience of everyone in the workplace to help cope with unfamiliar social and cultural environments, handle potentially difficult situations like demands for bribes or offers of unusual entertainments, or simply to find nice places to eat.
"The technology takes the stress out of travelling," McGavock says.
Some of the new travel apps such as Airbnb, Uber or Lyft may not be appropriate for business travellers, however.
"Airbnb tends to be used for longer stays where travellers often prefer self-catering accommodation, but the younger generation travellers like it because they want to experience the countries they are visiting."
Smartphones are having an impact on travel policies, McGavock believes. "In the past a company would have a policy that would be fixed but with the consumerisation of business travel that is no longer possible. You can't have a global approach because there is such a huge range of what is acceptable and what is possible in different parts of the world."