The past year has been a time of unprecedented challenges, and beyond managing the health implications of a global pandemic, travel and event managers are also fighting against an ever-increasing infodemic.
International SOS’ 2021 forecast report revealed that 43% of respondents in Singapore indicated that access to accurate and timely information on health and security was one of the key challenges in protecting the workforce.
As the world continues to push through the stages of a public health crisis, Tom Mouhsian, principal analyst at research and advisory company Forrester, stressed the importance of “automated advice, actionable communications, and staffed support channels” to customer-support professionals.
“Travel operators need a cost-effective way to process and respond to thousands of information requests in a timely fashion. Push as much of that support information as possible to the pre-booking stage of the customer journey to avoid bottlenecks and additional service costs later on. Timely and clear communications, coupled with an omnichannel contact centre and digital-first customer service capabilities, will also mitigate booking cancellations resulting from customers’ confusion and frustration,” he wrote.
Big names in the corporate travel industry need no reminder, each racing to deploy technology that delivers reliable information to clients in a way more efficient and timely than was ever required.
FCM Travel’s managing director for Asia, Bertrand Saillet, said: “Travelling for business has become more difficult since the pandemic started, and companies which are able to overcome these challenges faster than their competitors will potentially have first mover advantage back in their key markets.”
Last June, the company created Traveller Hub, an interactive resource providing up-to-date Covid-19 travel information to provide companies with greater safety and risk support.
It also developed the proprietary FCM Platform, an omnichannel suite that aims to go beyond existing travel technology with “powered-up features” like AI-informed reporting, online benchmarking tools, an online booking solution, and the enhanced chatbot tool Sam.
“The omnichannel offering is built on the foundation of these six key pillars: a globally consistent experience; always available assistance; traveller safety and wellbeing support; sustainability; intelligent reporting and savings, and flexible integration capabilities.”
FCM plans to begin onboarding customers in phases later this year.
While waiting for the various travel passes to be sorted out, FCM Travel Solutions Asia also launched its own digital health wallet, an app aimed at helping its customers back on the road, specifically travellers out of and into Singapore, when the time is right.
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has likewise responded to the need for “supercharged travel management” amid the infodemic.
“One of the biggest challenges for travel managers today is sorting through the sheer volume and rate of change of information… The supercharged travel management required for this new era highlights the value of the TMC: to simplify complexity for our customers,” American Express Global Travel Management’s vice president and regional general manager for Asia Pacific, Jo Sully, told Meetings & Conventions Asia.
The company launched Travel Vitals last year to give clients a single source of up-to-date information, with data aggregated from hundreds of sources.
In recent weeks, it built on that by developing a dedicated #TravelReady microsite, which includes resources like blog posts, tip sheets, white papers and GBT product details.
When travellers hit the road again, they can also benefit from push-notification services in the Amex GBT mobile app, Sully shared. This allows travel managers to send timely messages and tips to travellers across a range of data points including airport, airline, flight number, arrival and departure destination.
Similarly, Corporate Travel Management (CTM) Asia rolled out the CTM Covid Hub — a global map and trip search tool providing travel and health intelligence in a single source. To support more informed travel choices, it also has integrated airline and hotel health and safety features within the CTM Lightning online booking tool.
But the infodemic has affected travellers in ways beyond just an overload of information. There is now also growing distrust of information, even those from official sources.
FCM recognises this, and has been working with third-party experts in risk management as well as healthcare providers to get reliable information to customers, according to a company spokesperson.
For example, its risk management partner is WorldAware; and its safety & risk space is handled by Matthew DeMaris, FCM’s global product leader for safety & risk management, and former medical evacuation specialist at UnitedHealthCare Global.
“WorldAware provides intelligence-driven integrated risk management solutions and they work with us to deliver automated critical trip data, vital alerts and regulations through our travellers’ itineraries. This enhances the safety of business travellers and helps our clients understand travel-related compliance as a result of the global pandemic, and also supports confident and safe travel decision-making for our clients and their travellers at a time when these safety and risk concerns are especially important and of top priority in most organisations,” the FCM spokesperson shared.