Smartphone opportunity untapped

Victor Lim, Asia Pacific regional meeting ad travel manager, Ikea

Apps are perceived to be important, but their implementation is not widespread

Victor Lim, Asia Pacific regional meeting ad travel manager, Ikea
Victor Lim, Asia Pacific regional meeting
ad travel manager, Ikea

With deepening smartphone penetration and the Millennial generation joining the workforce in greater numbers, technological adoption is becoming more common than ever in the corporate travel landscape. However, the integration of mobile solutions into travel programmes is still in its infancy.

According to the 2013 Abacus Corporate Travel Practices Survey published earlier this month, mobile applications remain a largely untapped opportunity within the travel industry in Asia-Pacific, despite soaring adoption rates of smartphones and tablets in the region.

The survey also reveals a clear disconnect between the perceived importance and actual provision of smartphone and tablet applications in the industry: over 83 per cent of TMCs felt that mobile technology would have a moderate to significant impact on their business in the next 12-24 months, but only 33 per cent of the respondents had implemented any mobile web or native applications.

Speaking to TTG Asia on the sidelines of his keynote address at CTW Asia-Pacific 2013, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research, pointed to the accelerating rate of technological adoption: “We’ve got to understand the speed at which technology is evolving…think how we are gearing up for that world where people grow up being used to that stuff and not be held back.”

Talwar also highlighted that travel apps the likes of Hipmunk, Hotel Tonight, Room 77 and SeatGuru have provided insider information to help travellers with their decision-making.

“Apps that provide flight and airport terminal updates have helped corporate travellers on the road, especially among a new generation of travellers who prefer mobile (phones),” said Amarnath Lal Das,  travel manager of a Bengaluru-based technology company. “We’re looking to launch our own mobile app to make information available at one’s fingertips.”

Likewise, Ikea has adopted some mobile solutions, such as Concur, which has been “quite useful” for corporate travellers to track their expenses on the road by taking pictures of their receipts, according to Asia-Pacific regional meeting and travel manager, Victor Lim.

At the same time, Lim acknowledged that the furniture giant has not totally embraced the full potential of mobile in its corporate travel policy. “There have been requests from different segments of our travel community to be able to approve things through the mobile, and we will like to look at things mid-trip and be able to send out alerts to people about the weather, location or safety information when they land (in a destination).

“The challenge is how to integrate (mobile) solutions into our corporate travel programme, which exist in different pockets today, so we have not been able to manage it centrally in a good-enough way. As much as possible, we would like to tap on our partners’ existing solutions and not spend too much time and money on developing apps,” added Lim, who also urged technology providers to roll out customised solutions for the corporate travel community.

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