Preparing for the new era of corporate and government travel

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Abdulrahman Mutrib is the Executive Vice President & Group Chief Technology Officer of Seera Group.

By Abdulrahman Mutrib

It is a reality that the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted the travel and tourism industry, it is also a reality that we have been through many crises in the past and emerged stronger.  At its core travel enables business and human connection and I am hopeful and maintain a cautious optimism for the months ahead.

The fact, however, remains that the ‘new normal’ of travel and tourism will be different from what we have been used to. While the primary remit of the travel business – of transporting people from A to B for business or leisure – will remain the same, the new travel mindset will be centred on a framework to ensure the safety of passengers as well as airlines, hotels and tour services.

No doubt, the immediate tasks before governments and policymakers is to contain the coronavirus and ensure the health of the public, but I strongly believe that now is also the time for the travel sector to take stock of its operational processes and prepare ahead for the new reality.

A proactive approach is mission critical – and all efforts must begin now – not later. In shaping this, we have a powerful tool in our hands: The enormous potential of technology.   We know from the past that the travel industry has often refused to change until it was forced by disruptive digital start-ups that have been changing the face of the industry ever since.

Innovative technology offers us the opportunity to shape new systems and processes that are tuned into the new reality of travel in the coming period. The need to align to technology led ways of working is even more pronounced for the corporate and government travel sector, which despite the work-from-home and virtual meeting regimens that are the norm now, will have to factor in travel plans – not only for management teams but also for its employees.

Of course, there will be no immediate rush to travel from the Corporate & Government sector, and we expect travel plans to be limited to essential trips, with communications augmented by virtual meetings.

However, there are bound to be new considerations by organisations: For example, how do you keep your employees safe? How can we make travel more cost effective and efficient?  How do you stay up to date with changing travel restrictions?  What are the airlines companies and employees now prefer, which destinations would be priority, will there be specific preferences for hotels, what will be the safety protocols that employees travelling have to take into consideration? How do you track the itinerary of employees, ensuring that they adhere to travel schedules, especially as precautions need to be taken through the coming months? How can they create more value to the organisation and optimise resource use through efficient outsourcing of travel needs?

And this will entail a significant shift from manual processes to a more digitised core that is integrated with a competent travel services provider with an adequate Travel Management System (TMS) that is not just reliable and efficient, but also flexible to accommodate any changes in policies that we cannot rule out. Travel policies will have to be revised periodically by organisations based on evolving considerations – and in such a scenario, shouldn’t there be a travel provider with the TMS that can address these changes in real-time, rather than put through slow and ponderous email chains of approvals?

If, for example, a travel request by an employee cannot be considered due to a policy change, your travel partner must have the ability to ensure that such policy changes are immediately adapted and are equipped for quick responsiveness.

Such considerations form the backbone of the new travel management systems that elaa, the dedicated corporate and government travel business of Seera Group, is already implementing. We are utilising the current period to refine our processes and systems to ensure that we are ready for the new normal, and have the capability to offer agile, flexible and adaptable travel services for our clients. Further, these processes are also aimed at bringing more financial savings as well as workload optimisation for clients.

From trackability of employee travel to managing the complex and changing requirements, the new TMS protocols brings value to clients because it is available for free – making it ideal for the ‘new normal’ when cost optimisation will be of top priority for organisations. It will cut H&R and Admin work centred on travel planning by around 70 per cent, and overall manual work by 80 per cent, while financial reconciliation work reduces by a third.

elaa, meaning ‘trusted advisor’ in Arabic, has also activated a suite of internal training programmes to familiarise team members on the new models that will be implemented. We will educate customers on the new processes so that travel bookings and services can be facilitated seamlessly.

The travel management platform that elaa has developed delivers an end-to-end digital suite of solutions that can customised for specific needs and for customers. As a tool for the future of travel management, it will be transformative and set a benchmark, here in the region for the world.

 

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