Sponsored content disclosure: I'm happy to have had the chance to work with our sponsor Cabinet to share these helpful tips with you!
One of my earliest memories I have related to air travel was my first experience eating Biscoff cookies. They were as delicious as you might imagine for a child under ten. I remember watching the flight attendant ask other passengers if they would like some, many people saying no, and my jaw dropping.
Although Biscoff cookies are still around, much of the travel of industry has dramatically shifted over the last 20 years. In 1997, the Phocuswright Conference was founded for travel leaders to discuss trends and innovation. Back then, they were debating whether the internet would impact travel bookings.
This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the Phocuswright Conference on behalf of the online community for assistants, Cabinet, that I founded earlier last year. I went with an open mind to learn what might impact the way administrative professionals book and manage trips for their leaders.
Here are five travel industry transformations you or your executive may notice in 2019:
Home rentals for business trips
I know what you’re thinking: my leader would never stay in an Airbnb. Before you entirely rule it out, consider these scenarios:
All the hotels in Charlotte are booked for a conference.
You need to find a place for the whole group to stay during a team wine tasting event in Napa.
Airbnb is betting on business travelers in 2019. They have outfitted their site for assistants to easily find reliable, clean, and convenient accommodations for their leaders. For example, there is now a “for work” filter that shows houses specifically designed with business travelers in mind. They have also developed a higher tier of hosts, called “Super Hosts,” who are vetted by Airbnb for providing outstanding quality and service. Airbnb, like Uber, has also created business accounts to easily manage accommodations amongst teams.
Faster check-ins and outs
Let’s face it, waiting in line to check-out at the airport Enterprise is the last thing your leader wants to do after a 6 hour flight from LGA to SFO. That’s why rental companies are competing on convenience in 2019. Hertz is deploying biometric scanners that allow your leaders to pick up their car and quickly get on their way. According to PhocusWire, the travel news and research arm of Phocuswright, “Hertz customers pull up to an exit gate, roll down their window, and look into a biometric camera. Once a driver's identity is confirmed, the customer can drive off with the car, having never spoken to an agent.”
Hotels are also investing in check-in convenience. Hilton is expanding the number of hotels that accept a Hilton Honors Digital Key. With a Digital Key, your traveler never has to go to reception. When they arrive, they simply walk to the room on their app and unlock the room with their phone.
Easier to book experiences online
Over the last decade, we have seen online booking usage skyrocket. It has never been easier to book a trip unless you’ve tried booking trains, buses, local flights, or activities. Unlike airlines, hotels, and cars, these other experiences have lagged in getting “online.” In 2019, that all is going to change. This past December, Google acquired “Where is my train,” an app that makes it easier for travelers in India to book rail tickets. In April, Booking.com acquired FareHarbor, a Denver-based company that makes booking activities, such as bungee jumping and whale watching, easier online. These acquisitions signify an enormous push to make it easier for assistants and travelers to manage traditionally difficult experiences, especially internationally.
Voice-assisted airline bookings
Of all the trends mentioned so far, voice-assistance for travel booking is the riskiest. I doubt many assistants will use it in 2019, but I believe we will see a lot of development take place in the voice technology space. This past year, Amazon Alexa announced the ability to browse and book flights. However, as assistants understand, this task is more complex than it sounds. Not only must Alexa devices know personal information and preferences about the traveler, but they have to understand unique accents and interpret commands with background noise. Although companies like Amazon are pushing forward, it will be a while before the technology is both efficient and secure.
Startups solving unique challenges
This final trend hits home. I saw a lot of startups at Phocuswright, such as SleepBox and AirHelp, showcase incredibly interesting ideas for assistants. For example, SleepBox allows you to book your executive a clean, quiet, and private space to sleep in at the airport during a long layover. AirHelp helps you get money back on delayed flights. Whose company wouldn’t love that? Finally, Cabinet enables assistants to get reliable recommendations from like-minded assistants around the world. Assistants on Cabinet have already listed over 500 executive-level hotels, car services, restaurants, and event spaces in over 70 cities that they would recommend. Utilizing these three services in 2019 will help administrative professionals handle new travel challenges and earn the respect they deserve from their peers.
Julia Hawkins is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cabinet. She is a former Executive Assistant at a venture capital firm and a graduate of Duke University (BA) and Cornell University (MBA). Her mission with Cabinet is to connect, enable, and empower administrative professionals. Sign up for Cabinet’s beta and follow the company on social media.