AirPlus International Update – Saving Money At The Heart Of Corporate Travel Practices

AirPlus International managing director and chairman of the executive board Patrick Diemer highlights how saving money is at the heart of corporate travel whether you are a provider or a consumer of services. He outlines how travel managers are looking to incorporate savings throughout the business travel process and how virtual card payments will ease the woes of post-trip expense claims.


Patrick DiemerNow we survey corporate travel managers around the globe on a regular basis, and funny enough, while you seem to think that issues change over time, there's one thing which is on top of everybody's mind repetitively throughout the years, and that's how to save money, how to save costs, how to make the travel program more efficient. It's interesting that while this subject is the number one item travel managers care about, it's shifting in focus on what they do to make this happen. In the past, many corporations tried to save money and they did save money with enhanced supplier contracts. Suppliers such as airlines, suppliers such as hotels, suppliers such as car hire companies, and suppliers such as credit card companies or [TMCs 00:00:58] and the likes. The focus however has shifted now to what's savings, throughout the business travel process. So how much effort is it for a traveler to actually book a trip, be on a trip, pay for a trip, expense for a trip, and that's the new frontier for savings for corporate travel managers. I think that's the big trend at the moment.

So when you look at what you are going to do, as a business traveler, to administer your travel from bookings, ticketing, on trip information, paying for it, expensing for it, on many of these occasions the same information is being used, the same information is being entered, the same information is being produced to fill out forms and so on. To get approvals, to expense, and to account for it, and that's the cumbersome process we need to change. So we are working with the other suppliers in the value chain, on behalf of our customers, to create data sets once and use them throughout the process, and therefore making life for travelers much easier than it has been.

It's all about traveler convenience because when I pick payment as an example, everybody understands you need to pay for an air flight, you need to pay for a hotel, you need to pay for a car you rent. But nobody's actually liking the payment process. You know it's pulling out a piece of plastic to pay for something, is actually quite old fashioned. So we tried to take the in the background, so that people of course they do understand it's all being paid for, it's not for free, but the payment process itself is becoming invisible. Now that is doing the creation of this, is done in steps, we are quite far advanced with everything which is paid in advance of the trip, air for instance, but also rail in those countries where rail actually matters. We are pretty well down the line with hotel, where also pre-payment and central payment plays a significant role. I think we are at the start with car hire and we are also at the start with ground transportation in general on this.

As much as we can, we try to use the smartphone of the traveler to facilitate the process because it's a computer, it's much more intelligent than a piece of plastic could ever be, and we try to drive the data through the smartphone into the corporate system.

There is room for improvement but some companies, for instance enable their travelers, if they use such a system not to be forced to expense for their trip anymore, and that's a big driver, because nobody likes to do their expense management. This is like at the back end of a business trip and it's also in hindsight. You know your business trip is actually over when you do this. So everybody hates doing the expenses. So some of the companies in Australia and also in other markets are offering their travelers, if they use such an invisible payment, if they use such a integrated business travel management experience, that they don't need to expense for their trips any more.

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