< PrevNext > The “Year of the Voice” for Business Travel? By JoAnn DeLuna / January 29, 2018 / Contact Reporter Share This past holiday season, Amazon sold “tens of millions” of Alexa-enabled devices; the Echo Dot was the top-selling item across all Amazon.com categories and across all manufacturers, according to the online retailer and cloud computing company. In January, Google also announced it had sold “tens of millions” of Google Home voice-activated devices in 2017. As adoption of voice-enabled devices increases on the consumer side, business travel suppliers will develop their platforms with voice capability in mind to satisfy demand, just as they’ve had to create consumer-like travel apps. “Either you [as a supplier] will be left behind, or you’ll provide more value leveraging such devices and technology,” Omega World Travel VP of IT and data analytics Nadim Hajje told me recently.In 2012, Oracle Fusion Expenses became the first expense management system to incorporate voice functionality, allowing travelers to capture expenses on-the-go with a voice note. Coupa and Traveldoo followed in 2015. Last year, Coupa VP of product and segment marketing Sunny Manivannan said voice recognition devices were poised to gain more traction among expense technology providers. And voice technology is catching on throughout the travel sector, not just in expense. Alexa has around 170 travel and transportation functions, which Amazon calls “skills,” and in December it launched Alexa for Business. Concur was among the first to develop a business travel skill, allowing Concur users to inquire about upcoming business trips. Omega is waiting for Amazon to approve its Alexa skill, which will allow travel managers to pull up traveler location information from its OmegaCare duty of care solution with a voice command. The Alexa skill responds to similar commands as Omega’s chatbot. OmegaCare pulls booking data from Concur, Cytric and GetThere and pulls off-channel bookings from itineraries that travelers send in.Suppliers will have to ensure voice recognition is flawless and intuitive and has accompanying desktop or mobile integrations so travelers and travel managers can see complex responses easily, but the industry is just at the beginning of what is possible. Watch for future voice recognition developments this year in data analytics, travel booking and expense report creation. Hajje predicted that voice-activated devices will replace legacy telephony systems and disrupt the mobile apps market. “If I was on a mobile phone, I’d have to pivot into several apps to get the data … but what’s more natural than talking or even chatting with a chatbot? We’re only scratching the surface,” he said.