Senior travel buyers mixed with travel suppliers including airlines, hotels and serviced apartments to discuss the major factors influencing managed travel, during ITM's annual conference at the Celtic Manor resort in Wales.
We were there to catch up with Concur executive vice-president EMEA Scott Torrey to discover more about Concur's approach to travel management, the latest news on the Airbnb for Business account and his outlook for the future.
Scott had just come off stage highlighting Hilton's latest HHonors advertising campaign, which he said is the largest in its history. Its message urging consumers to book direct - 'stop clicking about' - he said, is "not subtle."
What has been subtle is Concur's growth over the last twenty one years. Established in 1995 as an automated expense solution and platform, it expanded in 2007 to integrate a travel and expenses solution at source, aligning the company more closely to the transportation and accommodation sector.
What are Concur's objectives?
Concur is an enabler of choice. We build on relationships to get data in, to be a source of truth - an enabler of truth which is ultimately the corporate expense report
What are the benefits of using expense reporting software?
The main benefits are that organisations can make quicker decisions by exposing data earlier. Without it companies can discover their employees are overspending and / or not adhering to the travel programme criteria too late - an example being perhaps using a 5 star instead of a 4 star hotel.
It's been interesting to see the velocity with which Uber and Airbnb have rolled out their expense reporting software over the last few months, facilitating ease of use and ultimately growth. In comparison, larger travel and hospitality chains, stifled by legacy systems can take years to roll out. Expense reporting solutions like ours have the ability to quickly bring new solutions to data that's easy to capture and report on, helping to ensure duty of care and more informed travel decisions.
It's almost 12 months since Concur announced the Airbnb for Business travel account, how's it going?
There's been a 27x increase on Airbnb for Business in the last 12 months which is substantial. Airbnb for Business' users value access to expense content, and single place reporting, facilitating where employees are, and the ability to quickly identify any duty of care issues, again making it easy for the business traveller.
With this exceptional growth, how do you think it will affect the broader short term rental and business travel market?
I think the short term rental marketplace and its users will ultimately decide, and we will always aim to grow each market we operate within.
What's your outlook on the future?
I believe we will see more personalisation in the travel process, and suppliers doing more business direct with the traveller. Recent examples include Lufthansa's £18 penalty charge for not booking direct, and Hilton's book direct campaign. Let's place more emphasis on capturing useful traveller data, and less on staying in treehouses listed on Airbnb!