If you’ve traveled beyond the borders of your home country this year, chances are that you made most of your bookings with your computer or smartphone.
According to Phocuswright's latest travel research report, Global Online Travel Overview 2019, online travel bookings are growing twice as fast as the overall market.
In Asia, it’s not just tourists making those bookings. According to Amadeus, “Asia’s corporate travel market is booming.” In fact, they expect corporate travel spending in Asia Pacific to “soar to $900 billion by 2025,” accounting for half of the world’s total.
Yet, for many companies in the region, business travel remains unmanaged - over 90% of trips, according to Travelstop CEO Prashant Kirtane. The result is that corporate travel budgets are being spent inefficiently.
“Traditional managed travel solutions have not evolved for decades, to the point that they don’t meet the needs of the modern company,” explains Kirtane. “The big players have complex and hidden pricing structures, and simply don’t work well across boundaries, languages, currencies, cultures, and demographics.”
At Travelstop, Kirtane and his co-founders Vijay Aggarwal and Altaf Dhamani are looking to change that by bringing the well-loved consumer travel experience to business travelers. In other words, they want to provide “a solution for the millennial generation of business travelers in Asia, who are tech-savvy and mobile.”
Here’s why they believe that business travel in Asia will only get bigger and better.
Unaffordable for growing businesses
Don’t look down on the humble small business. According to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for more than 97% of all enterprises across APEC countries.
However, corporate travel solutions are often too costly for them to afford. Being accountable to their network of suppliers, agents might pick more expensive travel options to fulfill agreed-upon requirements, with the small business picking up the bill at the end of the day.
Most employees at growing businesses are comfortable with flying budget or staying at alternative, cheaper accommodation, but these are simply not an option with traditional travel management companies.
Having to go back and forth with agents on email for days on end just to make a simple booking isn’t fun either, adds Kirtane.
Popular business travel management tools also tend to tack on several fees—such as setup fees, onboarding fees, and service fees—that make them far too expensive for small businesses to work with.
As a result, HR and travel managers at these companies take a DIY approach, using consumer travel platforms to make bookings instead. While such options are certainly cheaper and provide a better user experience, they are typically not optimized for business travel needs.
Some of the problems that emerge from using consumer travel platforms to make business travel bookings include compliance issues, uncontrolled costs, and lack of visibility, according to Kirtane.
“There is an opportunity here for a modern business travel solution to streamline such operations, thus freeing up time usually spent on manual travel booking tasks and allowing employees to focus on higher-value work,” he explains.
Travelstop offers “the best customer experience coupled with tools needed for business travel compliance,” says co-founder Dhamani. This includes features such as integrated travel policy, the ability to make bookings for others, approval workflows, centralized payments, and expense reporting.
“Thanks to AI-driven personalization, on average, it takes less than five minutes to make bookings on Travelstop,” Kirtane adds.
Unsuitable for millennial business travelers
According to Ernst & Young’s August 2018 report, millennials will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce by 2025. And unlike their predecessors, millennial business travelers are distinctly different when it comes to their consumption and engagement habits.
For instance, they are extremely engaged on mobile, explains Kirtane. “Asian consumers are young, mobile, and tech-savvy,” he continues.
“For them, making travel bookings on mobile is the norm, which is the reason why modern companies focus on designing ‘mobile-first’ experiences, and why Travelstop is built with a responsive design that works on any device.”
Having the flexibility and autonomy to craft their own business travel experience is also at the top of their priority list. Think picking their own flight timings, staying in an Airbnb apartment instead of a hotel, or getting around on a GrabCar instead of the local taxis.
A modern business travel solution, says Kirtane, would offer choice, convenience, and flexibility for both employers and employees. Travelstop has an extensive inventory for flights and hotels, and enables business travelers to make bookings and report their expenses easily.
Shaping the future of travel
Given that over 90% of business travel in Asia remains unmanaged, Kirtane firmly believes that many innovative solutions and technologies - like Grab, Klook, and Travelstop - will rise up to grab a piece of the market in the near future.
After all, over $37 billion of capital has flowed into the Internet economy in Southeast Asia over the last four years, says a report released by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company.
In Kirtane’s words: Asia will "shape the future of travel."
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