Egencia, the corporate travel arm of Expedia, has recently released a mobile app for iPhones which will serve as a mobile companion for business travellers on the road.
According to a recent survey by Rearden Commerce, most travel managers are concerned that mobile apps will make it even more difficult to ensure policy compliance and spend reduction programs.
We asked Steve Smith, Egencia's director for products and services, to share more about the organisation's strategy for mobile and wider views on the mobile sector.
Many TMCs have decided to use existing mobile itinerary management apps, like WorldMate, TripCase, Rearden or TripIt (acquired by Concur). Why have you decided to create your own apps?
We want to provide tools to help the traveler on the road, but we need to enforce the restrictions of corporate policy.
Any current and future service we provide must ensure policy alignment, and we need to enable the travel manager to be in control of their spend.
In addition, security is very important: we need to know where customers are in case of disruption, and be able to alert them. We don't want to have to rely on third parties.
What is the Smart Itinerary?
This is one of the keys to our vision for intelligent business travel apps. As we know exactly the stage of the trip, we can already display relevant information at the right time.
For example, a few hours before a flight, we will display the schedule, status and gate number. But once you've landed, we know you'll need the address of the rental car office, or a map to the hotel - so we can surface the information that is timely and relevant to the traveler.
Is the app intended for exclusive use of Egencia customers, or can anyone use it to retrieve and manage bookings (sync'ed by email or booking reference)?
The app is exclusive to Egencia customers. We're focusing significant resources on our vision for business travel mobile apps, and our corporate clients are the ones who will benefit from our investments.
I assume the trip synchronization is automatic, once a user has registered his/her account?
Yes, as soon as something is booked through Egencia, it shows up on the app automatically (as far as there is a data connection available). It's then cached locally, so if the user travels to a destination without data connection, they can still access the itinerary.
The few reviews on the AppStore highlight the lack of booking functionality. Why have you decided not to include booking?
We've decided to start with new features which provide additional value, on the road. In most cases, users have all the time they need to easily book policy compliant trips from their desktops.
Instead, once on the road they might need to just extend the trip of one day. Offering a simple way to quickly rebook a return flight is a smarter choice then starting a complete booking process from scratch.
We'll introduce shopping and booking later on.
Does Egencia support a travel approval workflow, and can travel approvers handle approvals through the app?
Egencia provides clients with multiple approval levels and different approval rules for domestic or international trips. Our first app release is targeted to travelers on the road, and travel approval is on roadmap.
You've launched on iOS, are you planning to launch other versions?
We're working on an Android version, and similar mobile web access points.
How are you integrating airline services such as check-in or ancillary services?
For check-in, we're simply helping by providing links to the relevant airline site. We've also planned to integrate mobile boarding passes, for airlines who will allow it.
Ancillary services are a totally different topic. We're setting up budget for this, and the easiest way would be to have them exposed through the GDSs.
But we expect to have to work on special integrations to maintain policy compliance and expense tracking.