Tag Archives: Travel

Germany’s data-driven FlixBus launches in the U.S. to make bus travel cool again

 Germany’s data driven FlixBus launches in the U.S. to make bus travel cool again

Almost five years after launching in Germany, FlixBus is about to make its biggest leap, strategically and geographically, by launching its data-driven bus service in the United States.

The company announced today that it has begun serving a series of routes in the southwestern part of the country, operating out of Los Angeles for now. Locals will now get a chance to book rides on the lime-green and orange buses that have become ubiquitous on European roads.

Pierre Gourdain, managing director of FlixBus USA, acknowledged the risk the company was taking but was confident the conditions were ripe to reinvent bus travel in the U.S.

“It’s a market that we spent the most time analyzing since launching Flixbus,” he said. “We needed to know if the market was asking for this. And what we saw blew our mind.”

What they saw, according to Gourdain, was a younger population that is less and less interested in owning a car, and is increasingly embracing a present that uses lots of ridesharing and a future that promises autonomous vehicles. In Northern California, meanwhile, huge tech companies like Apple and Google are operating massive bus networks that are conditioning their employees to appreciate bus travel and want to be able to work during their commute.

In the short term, for those who want an affordable alternative to taking a plane, Flixbus wants to offer a more reliable and entertaining form of intercity travel.

“The new generation does not want to drive anymore,” Gourdin said. “We have heard it loud and clear. Driving time is not efficient time.”

The company partners with local bus companies that rebrand as FlixBus, letting the company handle the routing, branding, marketing, and booking. FlixBus has 300 bus partners throughout its 28 markets in Europe and will start with 6 partners in the U.S.

In the U.S., starting today, riders can book trips between destinations such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego. Tickets can be had for as low as 99 cents in some cases. The initial launch will offer 180 connections, but the company is hoping to expand that to 1,000 across the western part of the country by the end of 2018.

The company was founded in Germany by Jochen Engert, Daniel Krauss, and André Schwämmlein, with the goal of bringing modern ecommerce purchase and logistics to a rather traditional industry. A FlixBus today includes spacious seating, onboard entertainment, and Wi-Fi. The company uses the data it gathers from inquiries and rides to determine routes, stop times, and pricing. And it sells “CO2 Neutral” tickets that passengers can buy to offset their carbon footprint.

Back in Europe, the company has leveraged its model to expand into train travel as well. That move comes as European countries are in the process of deregulating their railways. Between trains and the U.S. expansion, FlixBus is making clear its ambitions are high.

“We need to change the image of riding a bus,” said Engert, FlixBus cofounder and managing director. “We’ve done this in Germany and Europe over the past few years. Riding a bus was just not cool. And now this is our challenge in the U.S.”

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Four Ways The Travel Industry Will See Future Growth

For nerds, the weeks right before finals are a Cinderella moment. Suddenly they’re stars. Pocket protectors are fashionable; people find their jokes a whole lot funnier; Dungeons & Dragons sounds cool.

Many CIOs are enjoying this kind of moment now, as companies everywhere face the business equivalent of a final exam for a vital class they have managed to mostly avoid so far: digital transformation.

But as always, there is a limit to nerdy magic. No matter how helpful CIOs try to be, their classmates still won’t pass if they don’t learn the material. With IT increasingly central to every business—from the customer experience to the offering to the business model itself—we all need to start thinking like CIOs.

Pass the digital transformation exam, and you probably have a bright future ahead. A recent SAP-Oxford Economics study of 3,100 organizations in a variety of industries across 17 countries found that the companies that have taken the lead in digital transformation earn higher profits and revenues and have more competitive differentiation than their peers. They also expect 23% more revenue growth from their digital initiatives over the next two years—an estimate 2.5 to 4 times larger than the average company’s.

But the market is grading on a steep curve: this same SAP-Oxford study found that only 3% have completed some degree of digital transformation across their organization. Other surveys also suggest that most companies won’t be graduating anytime soon: in one recent survey of 450 heads of digital transformation for enterprises in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany by technology company Couchbase, 90% agreed that most digital projects fail to meet expectations and deliver only incremental improvements. Worse: over half (54%) believe that organizations that don’t succeed with their transformation project will fail or be absorbed by a savvier competitor within four years.

Companies that are making the grade understand that unlike earlier technical advances, digital transformation doesn’t just support the business, it’s the future of the business. That’s why 60% of digital leading companies have entrusted the leadership of their transformation to their CIO, and that’s why experts say businesspeople must do more than have a vague understanding of the technology. They must also master a way of thinking and looking at business challenges that is unfamiliar to most people outside the IT department.

In other words, if you don’t think like a CIO yet, now is a very good time to learn.

However, given that you probably don’t have a spare 15 years to learn what your CIO knows, we asked the experts what makes CIO thinking distinctive. Here are the top eight mind hacks.

1. Think in Systems

Q118 Feature3 img1 Jump Four Ways The Travel Industry Will See Future GrowthA lot of businesspeople are used to seeing their organization as a series of loosely joined silos. But in the world of digital business, everything is part of a larger system.

CIOs have known for a long time that smart processes win. Whether they were installing enterprise resource planning systems or working with the business to imagine the customer’s journey, they always had to think in holistic ways that crossed traditional departmental, functional, and operational boundaries.

Unlike other business leaders, CIOs spend their careers looking across systems. Why did our supply chain go down? How can we support this new business initiative beyond a single department or function? Now supported by end-to-end process methodologies such as design thinking, good CIOs have developed a way of looking at the company that can lead to radical simplifications that can reduce cost and improve performance at the same time.

They are also used to thinking beyond temporal boundaries. “This idea that the power of technology doubles every two years means that as you’re planning ahead you can’t think in terms of a linear process, you have to think in terms of huge jumps,” says Jay Ferro, CIO of TransPerfect, a New York–based global translation firm.

No wonder the SAP-Oxford transformation study found that one of the values transformational leaders shared was a tendency to look beyond silos and view the digital transformation as a company-wide initiative.

This will come in handy because in digital transformation, not only do business processes evolve but the company’s entire value proposition changes, says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It either already has or it’s going to, because digital technologies make things possible that weren’t possible before,” she explains.

2. Work in Diverse Teams

When it comes to large projects, CIOs have always needed input from a diverse collection of businesspeople to be successful. The best have developed ways to convince and cajole reluctant participants to come to the table. They seek out technology enthusiasts in the business and those who are respected by their peers to help build passion and commitment among the halfhearted.

Digital transformation amps up the urgency for building diverse teams even further. “A small, focused group simply won’t have the same breadth of perspective as a team that includes a salesperson and a service person and a development person, as well as an IT person,” says Ross.

At Lenovo, the global technology giant, many of these cross-functional teams become so used to working together that it’s hard to tell where each member originally belonged: “You can’t tell who is business or IT; you can’t tell who is product, IT, or design,” says the company’s CIO, Arthur Hu.

One interesting corollary of this trend toward broader teamwork is that talent is a priority among digital leaders: they spend more on training their employees and partners than ordinary companies, as well as on hiring the people they need, according to the SAP-Oxford Economics survey. They’re also already being rewarded for their faith in their teams: 71% of leaders say that their successful digital transformation has made it easier for them to attract and retain talent, and 64% say that their employees are now more engaged than they were before the transformation.

3. Become a Consultant

Good CIOs have long needed to be internal consultants to the business. Ever since technology moved out of the glasshouse and onto employees’ desks, CIOs have not only needed a deep understanding of the goals of a given project but also to make sure that the project didn’t stray from those goals, even after the businesspeople who had ordered the project went back to their day jobs. “Businesspeople didn’t really need to get into the details of what IT was really doing,” recalls Ferro. “They just had a set of demands and said, ‘Hey, IT, go do that.’”

But that was then. Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants. “If you’re building a house, you don’t just disappear for six months and come back and go, ‘Oh, it looks pretty good,’” says Ferro. “You’re on that work site constantly and all of a sudden you’re looking at something, going, ‘Well, that looked really good on the blueprint, not sure it makes sense in reality. Let’s move that over six feet.’ Or, ‘I don’t know if I like that anymore.’ It’s really not much different in application development or for IT or technical projects, where on paper it looked really good and three weeks in, in that second sprint, you’re going, ‘Oh, now that I look at it, that’s really stupid.’”

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

CIOs have always needed the ability to educate and influence other leaders that they don’t directly control. For major IT projects to be successful, they need other leaders to contribute budget, time, and resources from multiple areas of the business.

It’s a kind of horizontal leadership that will become critical for businesspeople to acquire in digital transformation. “The leadership role becomes one much more of coaching others across the organization—encouraging people to be creative, making sure everybody knows how to use data well,” Ross says.

In this team-based environment, having all the answers becomes less important. “It used to be that the best business executives and leaders had the best answers. Today that is no longer the case,” observes Gary Cokins, a technology consultant who focuses on analytics-based performance management. “Increasingly, it’s the executives and leaders who ask the best questions. There is too much volatility and uncertainty for them to rely on their intuition or past experiences.”

Many experts expect this trend to continue as the confluence of automation and data keeps chipping away at the organizational pyramid. “Hierarchical, command-and-control leadership will become obsolete,” says Edward Hess, professor of business administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “Flatter, distributive leadership via teams will become the dominant structure.”

Q118 Feature3 img3 rock Four Ways The Travel Industry Will See Future Growth5. Understand Process Design

When business processes were simpler, IT could analyze the process and improve it without input from the business. But today many processes are triggered on the fly by the customer, making a seamless customer experience more difficult to build without the benefit of a larger, multifunctional team. In a highly digitalized organization like Amazon, which releases thousands of new software programs each year, IT can no longer do it all.

While businesspeople aren’t expected to start coding, their involvement in process design is crucial. One of the techniques that many organizations have adopted to help IT and businesspeople visualize business processes together is design thinking (for more on design thinking techniques, see “A Cult of Creation“).

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from better processes. Among the 100 companies the SAP-Oxford Economics researchers have identified as digital leaders, two-thirds say that they are making their employees’ lives easier by eliminating process roadblocks that interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Ninety percent of leaders surveyed expect to see value from these projects in the next two years alone.

6. Learn to Keep Learning

The ability to learn and keep learning has been a part of IT from the start. Since the first mainframes in the 1950s, technologists have understood that they need to keep reinventing themselves and their skills to adapt to the changes around them.

Now that’s starting to become part of other job descriptions too. Many companies are investing in teaching their employees new digital skills. One South American auto products company, for example, has created a custom-education institute that trained 20,000 employees and partner-employees in 2016. In addition to training current staff, many leading digital companies are also hiring new employees and creating new roles, such as a chief robotics officer, to support their digital transformation efforts.

Nicolas van Zeebroeck, professor of information systems and digital business innovation at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Brussels, says that he expects the ability to learn quickly will remain crucial. “If I had to think of one critical skill,” he explains, “I would have to say it’s the ability to learn and keep learning—the ability to challenge the status quo and question what you take for granted.”

7. Fail Smarter

Traditionally, CIOs tended to be good at thinking through tests that would allow the company to experiment with new technology without risking the entire network.

This is another unfamiliar skill that smart managers are trying to pick up. “There’s a lot of trial and error in the best companies right now,” notes MIT’s Ross. But there’s a catch, she adds. “Most companies aren’t designed for trial and error—they’re trying to avoid an error,” she says.

Q118 Feature3 img4 fail Four Ways The Travel Industry Will See Future GrowthTo learn how to do it better, take your lead from IT, where many people have already learned to work in small, innovative teams that use agile development principles, advises Ross.

For example, business managers must learn how to think in terms of a minimum viable product: build a simple version of what you have in mind, test it, and if it works start building. You don’t build the whole thing at once anymore.… It’s really important to build things incrementally,” Ross says.

Flexibility and the ability to capitalize on accidental discoveries during experimentation are more important than having a concrete project plan, says Ross. At Spotify, the music service, and CarMax, the used-car retailer, change is driven not from the center but from small teams that have developed something new. “The thing you have to get comfortable with is not having the formalized plan that we would have traditionally relied on, because as soon as you insist on that, you limit your ability to keep learning,” Ross warns.

8. Understand the True Cost—and Speed—of Data

Gut instincts have never had much to do with being a CIO; now they should have less to do with being an ordinary manager as well, as data becomes more important.

As part of that calculation, businesspeople must have the ability to analyze the value of the data that they seek. “You’ll need to apply a pinch of knowledge salt to your data,” advises Solvay’s van Zeebroeck. “What really matters is the ability not just to tap into data but to see what is behind the data. Is it a fair representation? Is it impartial?”

Increasingly, businesspeople will need to do their analysis in real time, just as CIOs have always had to manage live systems and processes. Moving toward real-time reports and away from paper-based decisions increases accuracy and effectiveness—and leaves less time for long meetings and PowerPoint presentations (let us all rejoice).

Not Every CIO Is Ready

Of course, not all CIOs are ready for these changes. Just as high school has a lot of false positives—genius nerds who turn out to be merely nearsighted—so there are many CIOs who aren’t good role models for transformation.

Success as a CIO these days requires more than delivering near-perfect uptime, says Lenovo’s Hu. You need to be able to understand the business as well. Some CIOs simply don’t have all the business skills that are needed to succeed in the transformation. Others lack the internal clout: a 2016 KPMG study found that only 34% of CIOs report directly to the CEO.

This lack of a strategic perspective is holding back digital transformation at many organizations. They approach digital transformation as a cool, one-off project: we’re going to put this new mobile app in place and we’re done. But that’s not a systematic approach; it’s an island of innovation that doesn’t join up with the other islands of innovation. In the longer term, this kind of development creates more problems than it fixes.

Such organizations are not building in the capacity for change; they’re trying to get away with just doing it once rather than thinking about how they’re going to use digitalization as a means to constantly experiment and become a better company over the long term.

Q118 Feature3 img6 CIOready Four Ways The Travel Industry Will See Future GrowthAs a result, in some companies, the most interesting tech developments are happening despite IT, not because of it. “There’s an alarming digital divide within many companies. Marketers are developing nimble software to give customers an engaging, personalized experience, while IT departments remain focused on the legacy infrastructure. The front and back ends aren’t working together, resulting in appealing web sites and apps that don’t quite deliver,” writes George Colony, founder, chairman, and CEO of Forrester Research, in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Thanks to cloud computing and easier development tools, many departments are developing on their own, without IT’s support. These days, anybody with a credit card can do it.

Traditionally, IT departments looked askance at these kinds of do-it-yourself shadow IT programs, but that’s changing. Ferro, for one, says that it’s better to look at those teams not as rogue groups but as people who are trying to help. “It’s less about ‘Hey, something’s escaped,’ and more about ‘No, we just actually grew our capacity and grew our ability to innovate,’” he explains.

“I don’t like the term ‘shadow IT,’” agrees Lenovo’s Hu. “I think it’s an artifact of a very traditional CIO team. If you think of it as shadow IT, you’re out of step with reality,” he says.

The reality today is that a company needs both a strong IT department and strong digital capacities outside its IT department. If the relationship is good, the CIO and IT become valuable allies in helping businesspeople add digital capabilities without disrupting or duplicating existing IT infrastructure.

If a company already has strong digital capacities, it should be able to move forward quickly, according to Ross. But many companies are still playing catch-up and aren’t even ready to begin transforming, as the SAP-Oxford Economics survey shows.

For enterprises where business and IT are unable to get their collective act together, Ross predicts that the next few years will be rough. “I think these companies ought to panic,” she says. D!


About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer at SAP and Managing Director of SAP Labs.

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.

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Your Travel and Hospitality Reading List for Spring Break

Travel and Hosp 1 300x225 Your Travel and Hospitality Reading List for Spring Break

Spring is almost here! Which means spring break is right around the corner. If you’re hitting the beach for some well-deserved R&R, check out these eBooks and whitepapers from PowerObjects about digital transformation, trends in the travel and hospitality industry, and more.

In the age of the customer, the ultimate goal is to understand customers and give them the innovative experiences they want. For travel brands, the guest experience has never been so important. This is why the underlying trend for travel and hospitality needs to be making sure that any evolution in the customer journey is a positive one. Travel companies need to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation digital thinking, practices, and technical solutions.

Reclaim Direct, Profitable Relationships with Customers: A Special Report Brought to You by One Connected Community, Microsoft and PowerObjects

As innovative business models and mobile devices continue to disrupt and shape the way customers travel, one thing is clear – customer experience matters more than ever. In the age of the customer, the goal is to understand customers, give them the experiences they want and keep those experiences consistent across all touch points.

It’s an exciting time for the travel industry, but there are significant challenges associated with the innovation behind engaging customers across the entire journey. This whitepaper is the perfect resource to get organizations talking about these challenges.

To win in the customer-centric world and reclaim direct profitable relationships with customers, travel brands need to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation digital thinking, practices, and technical solutions. They need to move away from a traditional product approach, to a customer journey approach – it’s no longer about selling a room or a flight, but selling a personal service. READ THE EBOOK.

Travel and Hospitality in the Age of the Customer: A Special Report Brought to You by One Connected Community, Microsoft and PowerObjects

Travel brands that invest in creating innovative customer experiences will gain the upper-hand by showing a genuine understanding and interest of customers’ needs, wants, and desires. World-class customer experiences will be the defining trait of travel companies that thrive in coming years.

The underlying trend is to make sure that any evolution in the customer journey is a positive one. But to create distinctive customer experiences, travel companies need to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation digital thinking, practices, and technical solutions.

In this eBook, we explore eight core areas for all stakeholders looking to improve customer engagement in 2017, including interviews with Scott Crawford, VP ecommerce, Expedia and Lennart De Jong, CCO, CitizenM Hotels. READ THE EBOOK.

We hope you enjoy! Happy D365’ing!

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Alipay's Travel Tax Refund Service Arrives In Ten European Countries

Chinese Internet payment platform Alipay will launch a travel value-added tax refund service in ten countries in Europe to allow consumers to complete tax refunds by scanning codes with its app instead of waiting in line at the refund counters.

With this service, Chinese tourists will be able to realize tax refunds via code scanning and the refund money will be transferred to their Alipay accounts in Chinese Yuan.

Due to complicated procedures and slow payments into their accounts, some Chinese tourists in the past gave up their tax refund opportunities. Chinese media reports state that Chinese tourists lose nearly CNY1 billion in tax refunds in Europe annually.

According to Alipay, its new service may alleviate these problems. The service is jointly launched by Alipay and Global Blue, the world’s largest tax refund organization; and it is expected to expand into 23 countries in Europe.

At present, this service is available at Global Blue’s tax refund counters in Milan Malpensa Airport, Munich Airport, Berlin Tegel Airport, Rome Fiumicino Airport, and Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. It is expected to be available in Britain and France this summer.

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Four Days in April: The Definitive SuiteWorld17 Travel Guide

websitelogo Four Days in April: The Definitive SuiteWorld17 Travel Guide

Posted by Barney Beal, Content Director, NetSuite

SuiteWorld17 represents a slew of firsts for the #1 cloud ERP event of the year – the first time in Las Vegas, the first time as a business unit under Oracle and the biggest event yet.

With more than 6,000 people expected to descend on the Sands Expo & Convention Center to attend more than 200 sessions and nine keynote addresses, the challenge is not going to be how to fill the day, but how to fit it all in while still making time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Vegas. This guide offers some suggestions and advice for getting the most out of the event.

Key in on the Keynotes

Executive Vice President Jim McGeever kicks off the conference with the opening keynote on Tuesday, providing vision, strategy and details on NetSuite’s latest innovations. He’ll be followed by Executive Vice President of Development Evan Goldberg’s keynote on Wednesday with a deeper dive and a look at some of the features NetSuite is coming up with next. And this year there are seven industry-specific keynotes spread across the four days with the addition of Fintech and Advertising, Media and Publishing to last year’s slate, giving attendees insights into key trends in their industry and how NetSuite will help address them. Taking center stage throughout are NetSuite’s innovative customers like Ring, Smartsheet, Hortonworks, Blue Microphone, Lucky Brand Jeans, Avant and more. Customers will dominate the SuiteWorld breakout sessions as well, with more than 125 customer presenters.

Come Home Smarter

There are plenty of ways to learn how to get the most out of your NetSuite investment. Besides the more than 200 sessions (broken out by beginner, intermediate and advanced experience levels and by role), there’s a chance to meet with SuiteGurus for 30-minute appointments with experts from Professional Services, demos and best practices on the Expo Stage, and an area specifically for developers to exchange tips and ideas at Devland. Be sure to hit the show floor and see the products and services of the more than 100 partners on display.

Spotlight on Customer Innovation

SuiteWorld presents the opportunity to showcase more than just NetSuite. Some of the most innovative companies in their industry will be showing off what’s next at the event and attendees get a front row seat for those innovations.

  • Meet Brian Kelly, travel expert and founder of The Points Guy, to learn how to get the most out of your frequent flier miles and credit card points at 5:30 p.m. on Monday on the Expo stage.
  • Learn what goes on behind the scenes at Blue Apron, learning how they put together a different subscription box each day and walk away with a free recipe.
  • Learn how 23andMe is helping people learn about their health, traits and ancestry via DNA samples and get a discount on your own test.
  • Get a glimpse of what’s next in home décor by visiting the Jonathan Adler lounge.
  • Take a break from wandering the show floor and relax in the comfort of a Lovesac in the Lovesac Lounge.
  • Look into the future of home security at the Ring home environment and see how far the wifi video doorbell has come.
  • Bring all your SuiteWorld schwag home in style after stopping by the Trunki photo booth featuring Trunki’s menagerie of animal-themed suitcases.

Get up and Give Back

SuiteWorld17 again provides an opportunity to support organizations seeking to make the world a better place. Once again, SuiteWorld is hosting the Hackathon 4Good. Set for Monday, this year’s event will challenge teams to create innovative prototypes to help BrightPoint Health, a leading nonprofit provider of integrated health care and social support services to New Yorkers, especially those challenged by poverty, discrimination and lack of access to health care. This year’s event includes NetSuite’s Devland, where members of the NetSuite Product team will be on hand to help and support teams with the creation of their solutions and prototypes.

You can also take a break and do your part by packing activity kits for the Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT) a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring, engaging and educating children through the power of hands-on learning. The activity kits you pack will be donated to Bay Area organizations educating children and youth.

Meanwhile, T3 Expo, another NetSuite customer, is working with RAREFORM to reduce waste from conventions and tradeshows by recycling signage into one-of-a-kind bags and accessories and donating them to foster kids. Enter the raffle for a chance to win a commemorative bag made from recycled SuiteWorld17 signage.

Go Shopping and Relax

Stop by the SuiteStore, powered by the SuiteCommerce InStore POS system and get all your NetSuite gear along with items from our customers like ThinkGeek, Found My Animal, RuMe and Poppin. Then unwind on some of the coolest furniture around from Design Within Reach at the SuiteTunes Lounge. Log in to Spotify and subscribe to SuiteTunes.

Get Down

Be sure to get amped up for the conference at the Welcome Reception from 5-7 p.m. on Monday on the Expo Floor and Rock Out on Wednesday night at the NextFest Gala at the Hard Rock Hotel with the Royal Machines including special guests.

Share your plans before you even get there. Join the conversation on Twitter at #SuiteWorld17 and #NetSuite and follow us at @NetSuite.

Posted on Tue, April 18, 2017
by NetSuite filed under

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Big Gun Will Travel

Now that’s open carry!

rhPUIpn Big Gun Will Travel

“Goin skeet shootin.  Open carry in Texas.”
Image courtesy of http://imgur.com/gallery/rhPUIpn.

Amex Global Business Travel pools data lake to bolster ‘duty of care’

Business travel is seldom an unalloyed pleasure. Nor is it a trivial cost for corporate organisations. New American Express Global Travel (Amex GBT) president Philippe Chérèque, formerly the firm’s chief commercial and technology officer, says some customers are close to spending $ 1bn on travel each year.

Chérèque, who was American Express Global Travel’s CIO as well as its commercial head before becoming president, joined the firm two years ago. He has been putting $ 1bn into modernising the firm’s IT – in the direction of cloud computing, and capitalising on analytics.

“Traditionally, travel management companies have been satisfying the chief procurement officer rather than the business traveller,” he says.

Chérèque speaks of the need for more proactive care: “If there is fog at Heathrow, we call the passenger to say, ‘We have booked you on the Eurostar and you can fly from Paris.’

“The traveller is the key. If your engineer is stuck in the middle of India, that costs more to the company than saving 10% on the cost of the ticket.”

Chérèque says Amex GBT’s corporate customers are placing increasing importance on duty of care in the light of terrorist incidents and other misfortunes. When Brussels Airport was bombed in March 2016, Amex GBT could tell where travellers were because it had their Amex card data.

The company built an application that automatically sends an SMS text message to travellers when an incident happens: those who respond immediately show as green, then travellers not responding go orange then red. For example, it could immediately tell that there was one passenger on board the EgyptAir flight that crashed in May 2016.

The company is a joint venture between Amex and a private equity group headed by investment firm Certares. It has a treasure chest of $ 1bn in cash to put into IT, and has taken a comprehensively cloud approach.

“In the past two years, we have migrated not only from the data warehouse of Amex, but moved away from its HR system, its finance system and so on,” says Chérèque.

It is using Workday for HR, NetSuite for finance, and Coupa for procurement.

Data lake and visualisation

Christophe Tcheng, vice-president of core products and platform architecture, joined Chérèque from travel company Amadeus, which is the business alma mater for both men. Tcheng was head of research and development services at Amadeus, while Chérèque was executive vice-president. He was at the company for nearly 25 years.

Tcheng designed Amex GBT’s data architecture. He confirms it has 300 data people, with a small group of “around four” hardcore data scientists and developers.

Of choosing Hortonworks as the Hadoop distribution to build a data lake, which has been operative from 2016, he says: “It was a conscious choice to go for open source; it’s very robust and efficient. It’s not rocket science, but the trick is to make it work.

“In the past two years, we have migrated not only from the data warehouse of Amex, but moved away from its HR system, its finance system and so on” Philippe Chérèque, Amex GBT

“The idea emerged at the back end of 2014. We had an enterprise data warehouse, from Microstrategy. It was good technology, but it is technology from the 1990s. The industry is moving to Hadoop plus visualisation layers”.

For the latter, Amex GBT partnered with cloud business information (BI) and analytics company Birst to build a product called Premier Insight for corporate clients. This launched in November 2015, and Chérèque says dozens of corporations are using it.

Tcheng says on choosing Birst: “It is cloud enabled, and also because of its roadmap – with embedded BI, vision and investment. We didn’t want to choose the best platform for today if, in two years’ time, it is behind the pack.”

Amex can provide analytics into customers’ spend levels and so indicate where additional costs are being incurred, or where there are opportunities to make use of better buying power to improve efficiency of spend. It has card data from MasterCard and Citibank, among others, through application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as the Amex card data.

The analytics relies on having all the data sources together in one place, and then being able to visualise it for people to use through a browser. Birst provides the analytics platform and the data visualisation. 

Chérèque gives such examples as its customers being able to easily see where employees are not compliant – and so not using negotiated deals with hotel chains – and calibrating their airline spend.

“With the airlines it can be a cliff system – if you buy 100% [of the negotiated deal] you get a bonus back, if you spend 99% you get nothing. And if you spend more than 100% you could spend that money elsewhere. Airlines have had better statistics than the corporations, but now [the latter] have the information in advance – getting the data afterwards is no use.”

Chérèque also points to the sector possibilities in the firm’s use of a data lake with analytics. “We take care of most of the travel meeting and events for the pharmaceutical industry. We organise 40,000 meetings per year for them. With Birst, we can provide information about what is the average spend per trip in the industry. Someone in the pharmaceutical industry is not very interested in being benchmarked against Cisco or IBM.”

For individual travellers, Amex GBT is using the data lake to develop personalisation. “We know what kind of restaurants you like to go to, so when you make the booking we can make recommendations. Also we draw on people who have the same behaviour as you, who are in your cohort – which kind of restaurants, which kinds of hotel they go to.

“The booking is the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of things happening below,” he concludes.……..    ……………… ……. ………

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So are your travel plans

 So are your travel plans

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 So are your travel plans

About Krisgo

I’m a mom, that has worn many different hats in this life; from scout leader, camp craft teacher, parents group president, colorguard coach, member of the community band, stay-at-home-mom to full time worker, I’ve done it all– almost! I still love learning new things, especially creating and cooking. Most of all I love to laugh! Thanks for visiting – come back soon icon smile So are your travel plans

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Deep Fried Bits

Travel Marketing: 5 Steps to Seed the Micro-Moments That Drive Decisions

Google calls the act of pulling out our phones and searching for videos, photos, or articles about a destination a “micro-moment.” It is the moment when a traveler is actively seeking, planning and dreaming about traveling. And for a tourism company to have their message show up on a Google search, in a video or an Instagram photo at these moments is powerfully persuasive.

According to Google, “69 percent of leisure travelers who are smartphone users search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they’re standing in line or waiting for the subway. Nearly half of those travelers go on to book their choices through an entirely separate channel.”

Travel marketing relies on optimizing the micro moment

Google’s research highlights the circuitous route that vacationers take to the booking button. It is not linear or confined to one device. And it is driven more by the vacationer’s psychology rather than any static process.

The “micro” qualifier refers to the short bursts of time we spend browsing our phone, leaving marketers with sometimes only seconds to make an impression. Research from Kleiner Caufield Perkins & Byers shows that the average consumer checks his phone 150 times a day (this is not a typo), but only spends 177 minutes per day on their phone – meaning that the average smartphone session lasts only 1 minute and 10 seconds.

But micro-moments are also defined by three attributes – they combine intent, immediacy, and context. Vacationers are searching for something (intent), they want it at their fingertips (immediacy), and they want it to be relevant to their planning (context).

Travel marketing’s three motivators: Go, Do, Buy

Here is a tour through the steps vacationers take as they go from someone with a casual interest in a destination to a vacationer booking a trip, and how marketers and travel companies can get travelers’ attention during each step of the process.

  • I Want to Know

It might be spurred by a conversation with a friend or a stunning photo on social media, but most travel trips start with one simple thought – I want to know.

I want to know more about that small beach town in Mexico that my co-worker just raved about. I want to know about the most family-friendly Hawaiian Island.

These “I want to know” moments send us to our smartphones where we search the photos, articles, and videos that inform us about a destination.

Screen Shot 2015 12 21 at 2.08.13 PM Travel Marketing: 5 Steps to Seed the Micro Moments That Drive Decisions

Suppose you want to know when is the best time of year to visit Fiji? This website is nicely optimized to answer that question and take the buyer to the next step. Image Source: https://www.visualitineraries.com/

Each tactic has its advantage. Paid search assures your message shows up in front of the right person at the right time, but the message stays there only as long as you continue to pay for that placement. Organic SEO, driven by well-written content and meta data, and earned media (through public relations and video campaigns), has a longer life span and a more authentic, unbiased appeal to travelers. 

  • I Want to Go

The first decision has been made. After learning more about a destination, this prospective traveler wants to go. This is a big first step, but it is only the first in a string of very important decisions that make up vacation planning. Intent has turned into desire. The first hurdle has been crossed. If you are a destination marketing organization your job is partially done. Through compelling content available to the traveler at the right time, you have made the traveler choose your destination. If you are a lodging property, tour operator or restaurant, you now have a great opportunity to make your case.

Anticipation is a big part of success at this “micro-moment” stage. Understanding an audience and personalizing messages will earn you a click, a read, and ultimately a purchase decision.

At this stage of the process, it is a competition: the company that serves the most relevant content at the most opportune time will likely win the traveler.

According to a Google and Ipsos survey one in three smartphone users have purchased from a company other than the one they intended to – because the brand they finally picked delivered them relevant information at the moment they needed it.

Think of “I want to go” moments not only as opportunities to influence vacationers in the planning stages, but also in the moment. While lodging may be booked months in advance, targeted location-based mobile ads can inspire travelers to visit restaurants, take tours, and add unplanned events at the last minute mid-vacation.

  • I Want to Do

Travelers often book a trip to try new things – new foods, new experiences, new adventures.

But doing new things requires some forethought and research, and much of that is now done on mobile devices. Useful web content that explains, educates, and inspires seals the deal for most travelers. Web traffic trends confirm this growing demand for educational content. YouTube searches for “how to” content is increasing 70 percent year over year, according to Google.

While the “I want to go” searcher may only visit a location once, the “I want to do” searcher has a high probability of becoming a lifelong consumer. Capturing the attention of that person wanting to experience a new sport, a new activity, or a new skill may become one of the coveted brand loyalists that deliver long-running “lifetime value” to a brand. Whether you are a ski destination, a mountain biking mecca, or a golfing paradise, capturing the imagination and loyalty of a traveler discovering your destination and a new activity or sport at the same time is one way to tap into the lifetime value of a repeat visitor or a brand loyalist.

  • I Want to Buy

Causing a customer to click the booking button typically requires connection across multiple devices at multiple points in time. Consumers do more research, more thoroughly, than ever before.

When the momentous booking moment arrives, all of those “I want to know,” “I want to go” and “I want to do” micro-moments that preceded the booking decision matter. If your destination, travel company, or hotel served up useful information on things to do and things to see, the traveler is more likely to book with your company. Remember that Google/Ipsos study that showed a third of consumers will change allegiance and buy from a brand that served them up that relevant content at the moment they wanted it.

Connecting with prospective travelers throughout the research process also gives brands the data to connect and re-connect to the most relevant customers during these micro-moments. Using that data, brands can establish more personalized relationships with customers, making sure that they understand what their customers want in those valuable moments when they are seeking information and inspiration for their next vacation.

Take a video tour of Act-On’s Content Catalog, to explore our content solutions for the travel, hospitality and leisure industry.

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Act-On Marketing Blog

Elong.com’s Chinese Travel Website Goes Down

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One of China’s top travel, hotel, and airline booking websites has partially gone down.
ChinaWirelessNews.com