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Social Media in Corporate Travel Management - Travel Manager's perspective


Penetration of social media into various aspects of life is nothing new. And the area of business travel management obviously cannot ignore this trend and social media need to be approached strategically by travel managers and travel procurement professionals.

Penetration of social media into various aspects of life is not the new thing around us. New social platforms are being introduced on a daily basis and the numbers of users are constantly increasing. The area of corporate travel management obviously cannot ignore this trend and social media need to be approached strategically by travel managers and travel procurement professionals in order to utilize this opportunity for the improvement of their travel programs. 

Couple of years ago travel managers were pretty reluctant to use social media as part of their travel programs. The key reason behind seems to be the fear of enabling the use of social portals in the work as it is hardly possible to prevent the employees from checking their private profiles. Moreover the privacy and confidentiality concerns limit the wider adoption of social media in the industry. Because of those aspects it has not been the love at the first sight but rather a slowly developed relationship. 

Firstly the social media were used as an information inflow. Travel managers started to follow industry-specific blogs; they were joining various industry groups on LinkedIn and started to follow industry-relevant parties on Twitter. Facebook has clearly been on the side as it was understood as a platform for private matters but it is an important marketing tool for travel suppliers especially hotels. As the next step travel managers started to use social media more actively for the communication towards their travelers. Travel-related blogs on company intranets, internal social portals such as Yammer were the first sights of this trend. The original purpose was to communicate to the travelers more effectively but pretty quickly such solutions proved to be an excellent tool for the collection of feedback from the travelers. As the latest step travelers were encouraged to communicate with each other in the way of providing tips on the destinations visited. With monitoring such conversations travel managers were able to collect feedback about their key suppliers - mainly hotels and airlines.

Once travel managers became more comfortable with the internal tools they started to explore external social portals. LinkedIn proved to be very good tool for its ability to create closed groups preventing unauthorized access. However, as mentioned earlier, the higher utilization of external portals is limited with the privacy and confidentiality concerns. However travelers will probably use their private LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts to broadcast a big part of their travel keeping their relatives, friends, colleagues and followers informed about their trips while on the road. Simultaneously IT companies started to develop travel-specialized social portals and itinerary management tools with social networking elements. TripIt is probably the best of the kind and I have to count myself among frequent users of this tool. It enables travelers to see if any friends are around in the same destination or on the same flight. But there are some tools going even further. As an example, one tool currently in the pilot phase with one minor airline will allow travelers to set their mood for the particular flight and the system will match it with other fellow travelers to ensure maximum seating compatibility. I am wondering what is going to come next.

But what about the travelers? There are significant differences between the generation Y and older travelers. Obviously, the younger the traveler is, the higher the adoption rate. But in case of older age groups the incremental increases of adoption is huge. The communication of important announcements via long e-mails or newsletters is the obsolete way of doing it and travelers prefer to get sound bite text messages or alerts delivered directly to the screens of their mobile devices.  And this is going to be the topic of my next blog post. 

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