Can Business Travel Ever Be Buttery Smooth? — Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report

Tech solutions are trying to make business travel more smooth, but adoption is far from universal. In this photo, a business travelers is shown at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. sj carey / FlickrSkift Take: Making business travel smoother and less painful is an admirable goal. But what’s the best way to do that? We expect to see even more technology solutions crop up to try to answer that question. — Hannah SampsonThe Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.
Lola, the year-old booking app powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and real-life travel consultants, is changing course to focus on business travel rather than leisure. While the company, founded by Kayak co-founder Paul English, isn’t talking much about its new direction yet, senior writer Andrew Sheivachman put together all the news the company has revealed in a story this week.
The rebranding the well-funded startup has done is telling. The company now proclaims: “Lola is on a mission to make business travel buttery smooth,” which sounds more like a description of Chardonnay than any business trips we’ve taken.
English has said the company spent time learning when to use AI and when human assistance is better. And, he said, he’s learned that some travelers want self-service tools to make their own plans.
That bears out in research that we wrote about elsewhere this week: One story said 94 percent of executives chose mobile booking as their top IT-enabled priority, even though only 11 percent of employees booked travel on mobile sites. Another piece pointed out that 55 percent of U.S. business travelers surveyed said they believed that artificial intelligence would improve their travel experience. But in a sign that there’s still some uncertainty around emerging technology, just 62 percent rejected “the belief that AI and [virtual reality] could end mankind as we know it today.”
Sounds like there’s still a ways to go — and a lot to figure out — before we reach that buttery smooth status.
— Hannah Sampson, News Editor 
Business of Buying

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Business Travel Priorities Divide Corporate Leadership: Different corporate departments have varied goals for business travel. What they can all agree on is that enabling mobile booking has gone from a luxury to a necessity. Read more at Skift
Ryanair Could Suffer Considerable Damage to Its Friendly New Image From Mass Cancellations: In recent years, Ryanair has sought to move away from its brash, aggressive tactics that upset so many passengers. Its new friendly approach was paying off, but all that good work may well have just been undone. Read more at Skift
Travel Agents Are Increasingly Using Global Distribution Systems to Book Hotels: Agents may be placing more hotel bookings through global distribution systems, but the fact remains that hotels would like to move away from expensive distribution channels like these. Read more at Skift
Safety + Security
Trump Travel Ban Gets Tweet Support From the President After London Attack: This knee-jerk reaction — before all the facts are in, by the way — is hardly surprising. Read more at Skift
Potential Visa-Program Cuts Have Travel Industry Alarmed: The J-1 visa program is an invaluable resource for many travel industry businesses. It’s clear that any cuts to the program would be detrimental to the travel industry and the broader U.S. economy. Read more at Skift
Disruption + Innovation
Lola Pivots to Business Travel and Rebrands: Lola’s pivot to business travel makes a lot of sense from a financial perspective. One has to wonder, however, whether the small company will be able to attract customers in the crowded corporate travel marketplace. Read more at Skift
U.S. Business Travelers Embrace Technology but Also Fear Its Impact: U.S. business travelers want the technology tools to make their trips easier. The rest of the world, however, doesn’t necessarily see technology as the solution to service problems. Read more at Skift
Pop-Up Flight Check-Ins at Hotels to Be Tested by Virgin Australia and Amadeus: Innovations powered by cloud computing are on the way to streamline the flight check-in process, but will take some time to become available globally. Read more at Skift
European Regulators Are Investigating Lufthansa’s Controversial Travel Agent Surcharge: The European Union’s decision to investigate Lufthansa’s surcharge represents a potential blow to the airline industry, which is attempting to wrestle back control from intermediaries. Although the transport commission confirmed an investigation, it doesn’t appear that any decision is imminent. Read more at Skift
COMMENTS
Skift editors Hannah Sampson [hs@skift.com] and Andrew Sheivachman [as@skift.com] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.
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