Technology in Travel - Potential and Reality

Indiver Rastogi, Chief Operating Officer & Head - Corporate Travel, Thomas Cook India
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Indiver Rastogi, Chief Operating Officer  & Head - Corporate Travel, Thomas Cook India
With its Headquarter in Mumbai, Thomas Cook India (NSE:THOMASCOOK; BSE:500413) is one of the largest integrated travel and travel related financial services company.

Travel is probably the most complex service in the entire gamut of services industry. There are multiple stakeholders involved in every travel process like airlines, hotels, car rentals, and land arrangements and others to mention a few. Even though these services are interconnected and part of one process for an end traveller, they operate quite independently. The process of booking, pricing, terms and conditions, cancellation policy, validity including others varies drastically across each stakeholder. Mixing and matching these components and offering one single package that suits the dynamic requirements of business travellers still poses a challenge to all the Travel Management Company (TMCs).

In this backdrop, the expectation from technology is quite high. As TMCs, we want our systems to talk to various vendors, do the bookings as per customer requirements, generate the invoice, track the payment and close the transaction. Over and above this basic expectation, we also expect our systems to have intelligence about customers' specific requirements, corporate preferences, security checks against possible frauds and others. We also expect our systems to keep in line with the new trends.

The days of calling up the customer care and giving the requirements over the phone or mail is approaching an end. Today, the tech savvy customer needs information at the place he is, at the time he wants and has no patience to wait for a third party to fulfil his requirements with a quicker turnaround time. The solution lies in the mobility - today with the advent of smart phones there is a strong reason for a traveller to be impatient. Information is available any time & anywhere and the fulfilment is just a few clicks away. Similarly, the customer today leaves his digital footprint and gives an opportunity for the businesses to learn about his preferences/interests. Social media is emerging as a new platform to understand your customers better. Through the intelligence gathered from various digital mediums, we want our systems to say what the customer needs even before he articulates it. After all, we are here to delight our customers and today the big data analytics has opened up a new gateway of opportunity.

The above specifications were farfetched a few years back. But today, that is how the customer services industry function. If you ask me how many TMCs in the world have reached this level of sophistication, my answer would be unfortunately, 'none'. "Why is the percolation of technology so slow in the industry that is most complicated?" is a question that needs to be addressed, immediately. Most of the IT companies we have interacted with have sophisticated solutions for industries like BFSI, Telecom, healthcare etc. but none for TMCs. This is most likely due to the financial viability as the roadblock for most of the players in the industry to embrace technology in its fullest form.

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