How Will Travel Look In A Digital World?

John Roche and Frank Vander Stede

Part 1 in the “Advanced Integration” series

This blog is the first of a series that will drill down into technologies for advanced integration and enhanced intelligence and potential applications. We will highlight these capabilities, along with details on architectural design and evolutions in available underlying products and technology components. Here, we are exploring how an integrated platform could support a personal travel assistant.

The digital transformation journey for travel

The significant ongoing growth in global travel has triggered the need for more advanced travel-planning and execution tools to supplement existing solutions, which individually cover only certain aspects of the overall itinerary.

Today’s platform technology makes it possible to build a highly automated travel-planning and execution-monitoring solution. The technology can combine features from existing applications with intelligent microservices like satellite services, Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and blockchain technologies and data sources.

The result is an intelligent personal travel assistant, offering the traveler all data required in a fully automated way, in real time – from planning to execution, including routing, bookings, scheduling, checkouts, and final cost settlements. Imagine how a personal travel assistant could simplify the life of the frequent traveler, whether for business or leisure. The additional benefits are obvious in terms of administrative cost savings, and also for better alignment with various carriers and optimization of occupancies. For energy-intensive transportation providers, the result could also translate into more environmentally sustainable practices through resource optimization.

Travel-planning solutions today

Today, organizing a trip requires a lot of human judgment and manual steps during scheduling and execution. Multiple data sources need to be consulted. Today’s travel management solutions cover only the needs of the traveler in specific areas, like route planning, booking, or expense management; they offer little integration across the various areas. For example, a route planner provides travel schedule alternatives, but limited functionality in reservation and ticketing. Likewise, booking systems have limited functionality in automatic rebooking or subsequent payment adjustments, requiring lots of manual intervention.

Access to all relevant travel-data sources in real time is a prerequisite to produce qualified and updated travel schedules throughout the travel journey. These include carrier schedules (flights, train); lodging, dining, and entertainment (hotels, restaurants, performance venues); travelers’ profiles (route preferences, loyalty programs); and access to supporting services (hotlines, insurance). This is true of existing travel management solutions.

Elevating automation in travel planning

However, using historical traveler patterns, machine learning can now identify one or more routes, as well as lodging and entertainment suggestions, and propose these through the personal travel assistant, with the corresponding time and cost implications. The traveler can then select the best suitable option and by so doing, constantly update the machine learning engine. The engine can also release bookings and reservations in due time and issue ticketing, considering time-window restrictions, penalty clauses, soft/hard bookings judgments, etc. Contracts with various providers are used as a source.

Satellite services and IoT allow the location of the traveler to be monitored throughout the journey, as well as the location of each carrier and deviations from the original schedule. The machine learning engine can anticipate potential conflicts and reschedule the trip to a best alternative route going forward, making all necessary adjustments in bookings and reservations.

Ticketing and other required verification documents can be pushed to the personal travel assistant upon confirmation of the various carriers. Payment settlement follows through various channels (such as bank transfer, credit card, blockchain) upon confirmation of carrier usage, either detected through satellite and IoT data sources or confirmed manually. Final settlement of all costs and expenses can be fully automated, sharing the relevant data with standard travel and expense applications.

The foundation: a consolidated data platform

The foundation of the new solution is a data platform consolidating all relevant data sources, as well as offering required security capabilities and mobile access. For example, the future state could include:

  • Booking of travel and lodging followed automatically by route scheduling
  • Issuance of tickets and other documents upon confirmation with contractual best alternatives
  • Automatic settlement of payments and expense declarations
  • Planning and booking of transfers to and from the airport

Making this a reality, however, will require meaningful change to all existing compliance and authorization barriers. The feasibility requires flexibility in changing bookings in an automated way, as well as semi-authorized payment settlements and adjustments.

The feasibility

However, if those barriers to entry could be overcome through policy change, the improvements in the travel experience are considerable, including:

  • Time and cost saving during planning, rescheduling, and execution of trips, eliminating all paperwork and phone calls
  • Minimized hiccups and waiting times during travel, since all data related to availabilities, schedules, and calamities will be up-to-date and available in real time
  • Up-to-date information provided to the traveler, allowing for a smooth trip with minimal disruption or unexpected delays
  • Better visibility for all stakeholders, including travel agencies, carriers, hotels, and employers, on travel costs and faster settlement without errors

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John Roche

About John Roche

John Roche is an advisor with SAP and an experienced leader for digital transformation to connect people, things, and businesses to run the world better. He helps CEOs and business leaders to define their vision and leverage digital trends to transform their company. He provides guidance to CTOs and enterprise architects on end-to-end architecture design. Connect with John on LinkedIn.

Frank Vander Stede

About Frank Vander Stede

Frank Vander Stede is an SAP advisor and experienced leader for digital transformation, connecting people, things, and businesses to run the world better. He provides guidance on end-to-end architecture design, helping business leaders to define their vision and leverage digital trends to transform companies.