What is RPA and why does it matter to the travel industry?News / DistributionBy Viewpoints | January 2, 2017Share This article was originally published on Regardless of size or sector, most businesses face many of the same challenges every day. Increased competition, retaining talented staff, escalating expectations of service, as well as the need to drive profitability or increase efficiency.NB: This is a viewpoint by Kurt Knackstedt, CEO for Troovo.Most travel companies also face the added challenge of being in a high-volume transaction-based environment, often where staff feel shackled by the demands of managing data, bookings, processes and systems. "I joined the travel industry to do data processing," said no one, ever!When you consider that most travellers still seek a human touch for advice, reassurance, recommendation and help if it all goes wrong, travel companies are increasingly finding themselves in a conundrum of trading customer experience for efficiency.Failing to get this balance right is where many companies come undone.This is where Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, steps in. RPA virtualises, or automates, the entire booking process from start to finish with little or no manual intervention.It dramatically, and permanently reduces the cost of itinerary and transaction processing, delivering huge savings for travel companies. It means people can spend less time on data processing and more time working on the one thing that makes the biggest difference to a travel business: its customers.Sydney-based independent research and advisory firm Mindfields, has estimated RPA savings of at least 30 percent across functions such as finance and accounting. It said that 43 percent of companies deploying RPA reduced, or were able to redeploy, their percentage of full-time workers by more than 20 percent. The firm also reported other functions such as front-office, supply chain, customer management and sales could benefit from RPA.Case studyOne of our clients is a large, global travel management company. Although turning over millions of dollars of revenue each year, the company was not collecting airline commissions to the tune of $250,000 a year due to the cumbersome processes imposed by some airlines for calculating commissions and for submitting payment. Agents struggled with the process, often making mistakes, which allowed the airline to then charge the agent to correct the mistakes.These fees were costing the TMC about $80,000 each year.The company was also missing out on collecting roughly 60 percent of variable transaction fee revenues that they were eligible to claim from clients for a variety of services performed. This missed revenue was estimated at $600,000.RPA deployment can address many of these issues by automating the cumbersome process. As well as directly reducing costs by helping to eliminate correction fees, there are other benefits, such as being able to redeploy team members away from pure booking processing to other customer-facing parts of their business, generating additional savings from better utilisation of staff.The results on the company’s transactional operations included higher precision, better efficiency and fewer errors throughout the booking process.By automating the repetitive tasks involved in travel bookings, they were able to improve productivity, achieve greater accuracy, and free up staff to work ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in the business’.As a result, parts of the operational budget was re-allocated for innovative projects which generated new revenue streams. It was a win-win all the way around.Fundamentally, RPA is a technology solution which puts people back at the heart of the travel industry. It frees travel agents from data entry and transaction processing, allowing travel companies to reduce operational costs and invest in customer experience.NB1 This is a viewpoint by Kurt Knackstedt, CEO for Troovo.See its StartUp Pitch here.NB2 Image by Tom Wang/BigStock.