Article | June 20, 2023
It would be an understatement to say that the recent pandemic is ushering in a seismic shift for the travel trade, which suffered a collective gut punch as COVID-19 unrelentingly raged across the globe. New health and safety protocols, crisis management plans and other operational touchpoints are being overhauled to help those in—and dependent upon—the travel industry better pivot and adapt to the unforeseen. For travelers, priorities and sensibilities have also evolved on multiple fronts. For one, various reports extrapolate how privacy has become the new luxury.
In fact, a “Covid Travel Outlook 2021” travel sentiment survey by Indagare found that travelers “feel more comfortable renting a home or private villa for added privacy” and that “more than half of those surveyed said that they are 54 percent more likely to rent a home than they were prior to coronavirus, preferring to ‘Stay at homes not hotels,’ for added security and peace of mind.” Other reports tout the key advantages of private luxury villa accommodations, with privacy and exclusive use entrenched among them.
Amid the surge in category popularity, travelers must also consider ways to aptly vet luxe private villa options amid a burgeoning field. According to an Indagare.com story outlining the benefits of “going private,” proximity is one overarching booking factor noting that “for some travelers, a house close to town or affiliated with a nearby resort or hotel provides the perfect combination of exclusivity and access (to restaurants, coffee shops, fitness classes, etc.). Others prefer staying someplace further removed, opting for a home with fewer amenities or a lavish villa with every convenience under the sun.”
The article also points out another critical aspect that, all too often, is taken for granted: availability. The story cites the reality that “accommodations can fill up months or even a year in advance,” which some more spontaneous wanderers might not expect. Relative to post-pandemic issues, the story further cautions that “this year, with exclusivity at an unprecedented premium and fewer destinations open to international arrivals, early planning is crucial. One reason: Many travelers are opting for longer stays, now that remote work and Zoom classes are ubiquitous, meaning there’s less turnover. For these extended trips—workcations or staycations—having strong WiFi, reliable phone service and separate areas for being productive are key factors when choosing the right rental.”
With this and other public discourse helping spur private villa reservations, I sought to connect with one purveyor in the space that is making due strides: Destinations in Paradise. This boutique agency offers a suite of architectural five-star private villas in four locales: The Big Island and Kauai, Hawaii as well as Los Cabos, Mexico and Mendocino, California. Having personally experienced this company’s brand of haute hospitality on the Big Island, I sought to connect with the founders—David Cohen and Howard Appel—for some clarity on how they’ve apparently adapted so well in the post-pandemic era. Here’s what they had to say.
MK: So, first, let’s talk about the properties, themselves, and also your company at large. What sets Destinations in Paradise apart from other luxury home and private villa purveyors in the various regions where you operate?
Cohen: It's essentially our caliber of white glove service, which is highly personalized and with the very best amenities that can be provided. The company was started because we wanted to have some fun, as Howard and I had been retired a while. We wanted to give people, especially those desiring privacy and security, the kind of high-caliber experience that we would expect. When someone arrives at one of our homes, they're greeted and welcomed with enthusiasm and everything to elevate the experience is there. This includes the best linens, a house full of flowers and arrival gifts. In Mendocino, we leave fresh-baked goods and wine. In Mexico, our guests are greeted with cold towels and margaritas. Plus, any special requests are accommodated. Even when guests depart, we give them a thank you gift for having booked a stay with us. Overall, it’s a very personalized experience. It’s akin to having a member of the family come and stay. You get up early in the morning, make them breakfast and generally make them feel at home … that this is their home for the duration of the visit. The difference is that it's a five-star experience at every touch point.
Appel: We, ourselves, like to travel in luxury and, as we started acquiring the properties, we realized that this is a great opportunity to offer to other people the same kind of treatment we enjoy. It's the way we all would love to be treated. And we think we offer it differently and more special than others. The business sort of just fell into place as bookings escalated and we started to acquire additional properties.
MK: In the luxury travel space, much is said about the importance of personal touches to elevate the experience. So, can you provide an example of things you all do in this regard to go over-and-above for high-end luxury travelers?
Cohen: Here's one interesting example about the Mexican property, for example: It's two acres of the most gorgeous landscaping that you've ever seen. Even though it's in the middle of a desert, we are desalinating seawater using solar power, so the yards and the landscaping and the flowers are all very lush, but still desert-type plants. The interesting thing is that Howard and I have worked together for close to 40 years and, until we actually got into this business, I had no idea that he had this artistic flair. The landscaping at all of the houses is beyond spectacular. My own personal favorite is the Mendocino home, which has the equivalent of an English country garden. You can just go and sit in there and read a book, sitting in the fresh air with beautiful butterflies and bees buzzing around. The Hawaiian property is the same; it’s just gorgeous, perfect Hawaii.
Appel: It's important to note that these homes are indoor-outdoor homes. We want to make sure we carry the luxury on both sides. If you actually do a search of our home in Cabo on Google Earth, you can easily spot it because it's the only significant patch of green anywhere along the east scape. This kind of lush, natural beauty is just one of the many ways that we cater to our guests relative to the luxurious aspects both inside and outside of the homes.
MK: You touched on some of it already, but what are some other special amenities and activities that you offer in, and around, the homes that are available to guests?
Appel: One key aspect is that each home comes with a concierge service. Our guests can partake in any activity in the local surroundings. We try to offer the opportunities within the local community and try to personalize that. In Mexico, it might be premiere deep-sea fishing, surfing and paddle boarding. In Mendocino, we're about 30-minutes from Anderson Valley, so we can arrange for private wine tours. Especially during the recent pandemic, to help our guests have fun but also avoid big crowds was important to us. Of course, the homes in Hawaii and Mexico have beautiful pools, swim-up bars and each property has its own set of unique amenities on-site a like solar-lighted tennis court. In fact, when we travel to Mexico—in the seven or eight times we've been there—I think we've left the property twice. There's no reason to go elsewhere because everything is there with you. Whatever you want to do, whatever the guests would like, we can make it happen.
MK: Speaking of the pandemic, obviously the past year and a half has been tough for the travel industry, so how have the recent health concerns impacted your business with respect to private villa versus hotel, resort or other kinds of accommodations? And, also, the guest experience while actually visiting a property?
Appel: We took COVID very seriously from the beginning and, yes, 2020 was a hard year for us. We lost almost all of our business, but we used that down time as an opportunity to continue to enhance the homes. Even now, when guests come to one of our properties, they're greeted in a manner that best assures their health and safety. We have our house managers maintain their distance and use masks, of course. But, during the guests’ stay, we also make sure we work around their calendars to not intrude on their stay there. We take it very seriously. And, in fact, when a guest leaves, we have a minimum 48 hours between guests so we can properly clean and sanitize the home for the next guest.
MK: Many people often associate private villa experiences more with leisure travel versus business. But I know Destinations in Paradise properties are also utilized in business—especially when there are privacy, exclusivity and health-related preferences. Plus, of course, the properties are also perfectly suited for corporate events, retreats and even utilized as incentives and rewards for employees and business partners. So, tell us about these kinds of corporate benefits.
Cohen: Even though the houses are focused on providing a safe, comfortable environment for families and extended small events, we do also host small, medium and large-scale corporate events at the houses. Whether it's a two-person law firm figuring out how they're going to run their businesses remotely, to a large distillery that wants to try and get their name out for a new product for, say, tequila in Mexico, our homes are an apt venue. Of course, we host weddings and social media is prompting bookings from people like rappers who want a place to chill out and rethink what their next shows or postings are going to be. And we've hosted philanthropic events like releasing baby turtles in the beaches of Mexico to address species endangerment. For that, a university in Mexico held a business meeting at our property, and as a gift we paid and supported their release of 600 hatchlings. Howard has also had some dealings with movie studios that are interested in hosting either corporate get togethers and business strategy meetings. And, in at least two instances that I can recall, they’ve considered using the homes as part of a movie production. I should also mention that each of the homes have the ability to cater for large and small groups. If we bring chefs in, that event never ever needs to leave the property. The house in Mexico, for instance, has two kitchens that are fully capable of catering to as many people as the property can accommodate, which is substantial, but each of the homes have the ability to cater internally and not rely on outside services.
Appel: All the homes offer businesses a unique opportunity to host meetings and events, from the very large as in Mexico, to even Mendocino for smaller gatherings. They’re all unique and offer the privacy, security and comfort that private villa venues offer—all, of course, with our discerning five-star touch.
Article | May 17, 2023
The travel industry is getting back to business, and demand has skyrocketed for travel technologies that make interactions possible between companies and corporate travelers. A recent Gartner survey reveals how 2020 affected CFOs with their corporate travel and expense management tasks globally.
How will finance teams report and forecast expenses? How can corporate travel costs be managed? How to manage travel expense management processes effortlessly? Does this sound familiar to you? These were a few valid questions that kept companies engaged in finding answers during the pandemic.
Many finance leaders want to implement proper corporate travel and expense management services and find solutions to bring consistency and clarity to their financial processes. While switching from manual processes to automated management systems can be difficult post-pandemic, with an efficient travel and expense management tool or software, your company can gain optimum benefits and stay productive in the future. This article will show you how it evolved through the coronavirus phase efficiently.
Adoption of T&E Management Process for Seamless Work Experience
An American Express survey found that 55% of the chief executives and senior financial managers ranked rising travel and expense costs as a top concern during the peak pandemic phase.
Digital transformation of your processes is a critical strategy for spend management, and it ensures that employees are using the right product to get the best value. By adopting an efficient travel and expense management tool, your company can gain stellar benefits for your finance team to cater varied requirements, and keep a rigorous control over corporate travel spend.
Before looking into how travel expense management processes are evolving post-pandemic, here are the benefits and value travel and expense management solutions offer. Also, this will further facilitate your finance team to manage the current corporate travel scenario effectively.
Benefits of Travel and Expense Management Solutions
The travel and expense management didn’t disappear during the pandemic. Instead, it accelerated its core value. The idea of integrating travel and expense management services with the help of big data in the travel industry is to leverage best practices for travel expense management that can help analyze and extract key information to diverse corporate travel finance functions.
Travel industry leaders who are integrating effective travel expense management services in their corporate travel system have experienced the following benefits:
Automatic processes of expenditure
Data-driven decisions are smarter
Ability to forecast more accurately
Delivers better user experience
Quick access to integrated data from expenditures
Gain deep data visibility
Higher rate of compliance with corporate policies in finance
These significant upticks will benefit your company and will simultaneously improve your corporate travel policies. Understanding these benefits will help you identify how travel technology can help your company manage complex financial tasks that arose during the pandemic.
According to a Gartner survey, a travel expense management system is essential as a key solution to manage the corporate travel economy. Any company, big or small, needs to control its expenditure to recover during the pandemic.
Complex Forms of T&E Management Are Gone
Legacy processes may get a job done, but they are more time consuming, error-prone, and do not provide visibility into travel spend. And when your travel and expense management process is slow and cumbersome, it can slow down the growth trajectory of your business.
Corporate travel and expense management automation and its associated features like corporate travel policy, quick and easy booking, automated expense and reimbursement solutions, live credit card feeds, backup analytics capabilities, and more have taken precedence post-pandemic. These services offer more visibility into the travel spend of your employees. With top travel and expense management solutions, your finance teams can monitor and control costs and expenses in the long run.
While many corporate travelers have started researching and organizing trips online, you need to add value to financial services by adopting automated travel and expense management solutions that work effortlessly.
Core Focus Areas of Travel and Expense Management
The post-pandemic era has seen a lot of companies embracing new and updated travel and expense management solutions to drive cost savings, and enable finance teams to have a better control over their road warriors. Here are some:
Contactless Data Record Is the next Big Thing
Travel and expense management systems allow employees to record all corporate travel bills and receipts through mobile apps and create expense reports immediately. Big data in the travel industry has played a significant role during the pandemic. Technology leaders have already experienced the benefits of travel and expense management.
For example, TripActions’ travel and expense management platform uses data to learn about business travelers’ preferences, and predicts within 30 seconds what travelers are going to book with 90% accuracy. The advantage of big data to travel and expense management has already organized several effortless finance processes for corporate travelers to experience seamless budgets.
Automation Is Crucial
Integrating travel and expense management solutions could easily add to the unimaginable overheads that companies are experiencing. Automation is one of these solutions. Its integration in the travel and expense management system will give rise to a paperless world that will facilitate finance functions to build an audit trail. With this, it also ensures total compliance to keep the organization and its process fast.
Agile Technology Is the Enabler
Critically for the travel industry, agile technology has allowed multiple methodologies for incremental development in corporate travels, which has transformed the processes from rigid to flexible. The agile process in corporate travel and expense management allows analyzing tangible results on expense. The approach also provides the potential to change plans according to the requirements.
For example, Lola.com, the agile travel management company is helping corporate travelers book, re-book, and take the task of expense reports off the table easily. Finance teams arrange travel policies in minutes and equally manage, control, and view expenditure effortlessly. In short, agile technology is making it much easier for travelers and companies all round.
To address the use of agile technology in travel and expense management, Jeanne Hopkins, former CMO at Lola.com, the agile travel management company shares
“Finance teams at Lola.com have tried managing, controlling, and got visibility into expenditures efficiently by implementing travel and expense management. Small and mid-sized businesses have to be fast and dynamic in the changing scenario of travel, so that actions like booking, re-booking, and managing corporate travel could be performed with efficiency and results in high productivity.”
A Hassle-free Expense Management System
Expense has been one common challenge with corporate travel programs. Integrating travel and expense management in your company can eventually introduce you to a hassle-free work solution. As the process involves collecting receipts from multiple sources, either from hotels, flights, or car rentals, travel and expense management solutions make it easier for a manager to look at all corporate travel costs at once. Also, in terms of future travel spend and potential savings, the capability of this management remains exceptional. Modern travel and expense management solutions also include self-service, real time, and easy navigation.
For example, for travelers, Lola.com has a large inventory of flights and hotels that allow users to avoid going to various sites to compare fares, and save preferences, loyalty programs, and provides payment options in one place. Traveler profiles are automatically stored so that users can book with one click. The 24/7 support team then ensures easy booking and re-booking for its users without any delay.
End-to-End Integration Is the New Order of Workforce
End-to-end integrated systems in your company will help your finance team implement best practices for travel expense management. This will make it easier for your employees to initiate, approve, and pay each transaction out of hundreds within minutes, thereby creating a seamless task without any manual involvement.
Travel and Expense Management Trends
When you automate your travel and expense process, it will not only maximize your returns but, at the same time, it will minimize your spending. This will save you both time and money. Below are the reasons you will want to consider making a switch to automate from a manual process.
Remove Guess Work from Expense Process
For finance personnel in your company, the new travel and expense management system can be set up in five minutes. One of the travel and expense management tools, like Expensify, helps with easy expense tracking and reporting. Similar to this, SpendCatcher – a mobile application of MobileXpense.com that is infused with AI and deep machine learning extracts payment information with just one tap.
Companies whose employees use a corporate travel and expense management system can receive reports according to department, employee, direct travel supplier, hotel, or car rental company. This information helps managers analyze spending patterns by actively monitoring it with up-to-date information in one flow from various travel suppliers.
In this case, Concur TripLink connects to corporate travelers for direct bookings across the borders. It gives visibility of bookings no matter where it is booked.
True Visibility into Spending
The corporate travel and expense report management system automatically flags and creates analyses of dashboards highlight hidden expenditure. This can be helpful to know:
How much expenditure is going in personal corporate travel cards, and why
Find expense categories easily
Find out why expense is falling short and ask for details
In this context, MasterCard International is rapidly approaching towards a smart, web-based expense management system to control spending, generate comprehensive spending reports, and accurately integrate purchase data. Thus, delivering business efficiently, quickly, and easily.
Rise of Bleisure Travel
Corporate travel and expense management also includes ‘bleisure travel’ for corporate travelers, those looking to combine business travel with leisure time. With agile travel and expense management tools, you can make quick changes in plans to keep your employees and finance team happy and productive while mapping the budget. In this case, Lola.com has made travel and expense management real by providing an effortless way to manage, book, and report on business plus leisure travel, by encouraging its employers to save most of their time and money.
Travel technology offers a deserving platform with travel and expense management to companies for added efficiency and visibility over travel spend. As corporate travel businesses are returning rapidly towards their regular work scenarios, the travel industry will see a rise in revenue. Travel and expense management system will be one of the powerful remedies to the travel industry and will increase its scope to drive growth post-pandemic.
According to the new Skift report, 88% of corporate travelers will drive travel technology company growth. 86% of corporate travel managers believe it. Put an end to complex budget management and legacy processes; it is time to know how to manage travel expenses in corporate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is travel and expense process?
The aim of the travel and expense process is the complete administration of travel expenses, including the recording of expenses, posting in Financial Accounting (FI), and allocation in Controlling (CO) and Funds Management (FI-FM). The process also involves the valuation of costs associated with business-related activities.
Why is expense management important?
Expense management is important for businesses because it helps employees to keep an accurate track of expenses. This caters to them to plan financial aspects for the future with more clarity and confidence. Capital flow is a daily process in any business, so to manage some significant amounts could get efficiently done through expense management and generate a profit.
What is travel and expense management?
Travel and expense management is a process that includes finance management by the employee when on a business trip or any expense is made for business goals. Each travel and expense management consists of detailed records of costs, expenditure, budgeting, and report submission.
Article | June 19, 2023
Global travel agencies are striving to maintain a competitive edge in the market. They are relying on big data to analyze the current state of the market, automate work processes, and better understand customer needs to streamline their businesses. Big data is now an important part of the future of the travel industry because it helps:
Customer demand forecasting
Optimization of pricing strategies
How is Big Data Sourced?
The following data sources are used to gather big data:
User-Generated Data (UGC) is the most affordable data to obtain and includes textual data gathered through questionnaires, social networks, and image data.
Device data gives access to GPS data, mobile roaming data, bluetooth data, RFID, WiFi data and more. This data is harder to obtain and is expensive.
Web search data, web page visit data, online booking data, etc., constitute transaction data. Advanced web services such as Google Analytics can help collate this data.
The sourced data is analyzed using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP).
How Is Big Data Changing the Way Travel Companies Operate?
With the help of big data, you can increase your performance, get deeper customer insights, and offer an excellent customer experience to travelers. Let us briefly examine how big data can help you achieve all these objectives.
Optimize Your Revenue
Optimize your costs and accurately predict short-term and long-term revenues. Through customer experience metrics, you can also analyze your profit potential, correctly forecast peak period demand and offer relevant services to customers at the right time. As a result, protect your agency from unexpected expenses and make the most of customer demand.
Recognize & Capitalize on Trends
Historical, real-time data and a standard analytical approach help you understand the changing trends in the tourism industry. Then, you can swiftly take measures to adapt to these changing trends and capitalize on the ones that contribute to revenue. Bleisure is an excellent example of such a travel trend.
Improve Your Marketing Campaigns
Big data processes large amounts of information on your target audience and helps you see which marketing campaigns can succeed based on long-term forecasting. Consequently, you can prevent any unexpected losses while executing seasonal marketing campaigns. Additionally, big data collects information on your competitors and target audience in real-time, so you know the kind of marketing campaigns you need to execute to remain ahead in the race.
Enhance Brand Reputation
Big data considers customer reviews and comments to help you understand which aspects of your business need improvement. Internally collected feedback and big data analysis can create a standard to improve the brand reputation of your agency.
Big data in the travel industry is more than just a trend; it is a tool for better understanding the market situation and each customer in general (potential and existing). All of this lays the groundwork for a more personalized approach and accurate prediction of what customers want, and contributes to an elevated customer experience and an increase in revenue.
Article | February 12, 2021
Technology advancements have changed the way we travel. And some of the new developments promise an improved day-to-day operation and interactive experiences for the customers. With the help of technologies, thousands of companies have transformed their conventional accommodation and traveling experiences.
Travelers have gained free access to chart their journey, arrange required services, and enjoy hassle-free traveling. And the best part of this is, the ability to acquire all without leaving the comfort of home.
However, there has been a paradigm shift in the travel industry with the development of some emerging techs around the world. So let’s check out what these technologies are, how they are going to impact, and the way it is going to change the entire traveling experience.
Key Tech Trends In Traveling
1. AI Chatbots
Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence is the most sensible investment. It helps users to talk with chatbots through messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Skype, or Slack. With the data stored in these chatbots, they recommend the best locations, tips, and price-alerts, thus, impact the decisions of the customers. During the trip, it would prompt the traveler about check-in updates and flight delays. Some of the booking sites that use chatbots include Skyscanner, Kayak, Booking.com, etc.
2. AR & VR
Thanks to the development of augmented reality and virtual reality, potential customers can now take a virtual tour of the resort or hotel from anywhere around the world. It assists not only the customer to choose the best option for them but also helps the hotels to promote their facilities. With AR and VR, the possibilities in the travel industry are infinite.
3. Recognition Technology
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, one of the biggest fears a customer faces is coming in contact with an infected person. But, the recognition technology assists in both check-in and check-out from the hotel with the help of retina scanning, facial recognition, and other biometric identifications.
4. Smart Rooms with IoT
A wide number of hotels have moved towards the Internet of Things for their rooms. It enhances the entire customer experience via customized and potential control to the rooms while detecting any problem that can be faced by them.
5. Contactless Payment
Last but not the least, contactless payment is another form of advancement in travel tech that allows companies to process payments quickly and saves time for the customers who don’t have cash or access to their debit or credit card.
For every company that is operating in the travel industry, it is important to keep up with the technological trends. Understanding and using the tech mentioned will help in providing a better experience for the customer and optimize business along with the overall performance of the business. If you want to know more about these technologies and their adoption then have an IT consultant from experienced experts and acquire the in-depth information.