The lineup for PhoCusWright's Travel Innovation Summit here last week included some faces familiar to corporate travel buyers. Concur presented its Open Booking platform, which it plans to begin marketing early next year. Amadeus showcased its Featured Results tool, which allows for instant search capabilities and whittles down results to only a handful of options, following the philosophy that too much choice can overwhelm a traveler.
As history has shown, however, other technologies designed more for the leisure space often find their place in corporate programs.
One of the most popular demonstrations was a "door-to-door" travel booking tool called Rome2rio. Co-founder Michael Cameron described it as a way to start thinking of travel in terms of destinations, not airports.
When travelers enter their destinations and dates, the technology searches multiple forms of transportation--air carriers, trains, buses and ferries that are part of the hundreds of suppliers Rome2rio has sourced--and offers several itinerary alternatives combining those sources. Not only can travelers quickly compare the time and cost of train versus plane, for example, but they also can map out travel between destinations with no airports that often are not served by traditional online booking tools--Capri, Italy, for example.
Cameron said he views Rome2rio as more of a B-to-B company and is licensing its technology, so it's easy to foresee the potential in the near future for the platform to be integrated into established third-party sites.
Also noteworthy was the mobile app WeHostels, which Innovation Summit judges named the conference's best startup. The app is a booking tool for hostels and other budget travel accommodations targeting the youth market.
On the surface, that has zero relevance for corporate travel, but it has drastically improved the interface for mobile booking, which often is clunky and difficult on existing apps, according to WeHostels co-founder Diego Saez-Gil. By providing just a few pieces of information--the destination, the date, number of nights and number of guests--travelers instantly are presented with photos and prices for a handful of lodging options and a map if they prefer to search by location. It also integrates social media by showing feedback from previous users and other users who will be staying at the property. Consider it another step toward the inevitability of mobile booking dominance.
Here's a quick rundown of a few more technology innovations that might be worthwhile for travel buyers to explore.
Zentila: A new meeting planning tool designed to ease the problem of the electronic RFP deluge. Users design a meeting request with Zentila's "RFP Genie," pick a few hotels with its hotel finder and send the request to those hotels rather than scatter-shooting it to hundreds of hotels. Hotels then respond within hours, according to the company's demonstration.
SuperFly: A flight search tool allowing travelers to search based on the net value provided by their rewards programs and manage those programs across all vendor categories.
KnowDelay: Somewhat similar to FlightCaster, KnowDelay lets users track flights for potential weather delays and suggests alternatives when delays or cancellations seem likely. Travelers booking at the last minute also can rank potential itineraries to see which ones carry the biggest chance of a delay.
TripLingo: This language-instructing app has gotten an upgrade. Users now can speak a phrase and have it translated or receive access to a live translator when the situation calls for it.
Fluential: Apple's Siri can do a lot of things, but booking travel isn't one of them. Fluential is a mobile app specifically designed to book travel and manage itineraries through voice recognition.
Cabforce: Already a part of Travelport's Universal Desktop, Cabforce lets travelers book and prepay for taxis and limo services in Europe.
TourWrist: One of the conference's biggest hits, TourWrist is a viewing technology and social media platform for 360-degree panoramic photography, now easily created by anyone with the latest iPhone software. With it, hotels can easily showcase virtual property tours and meeting planners can create their own images at properties for sharing.