Expedia's Egencia next quarter plans to release the first
phase of its "next-generation" mobile tools for travelers and
managers, Egencia president Rob Greyber told The Beat. Initially providing itineraries and travel information,
the mobile suite will be released globally at no added cost for iPhone and
mobile web-enabled devices, and Egencia will "look to develop on
additional platforms, including Android and BlackBerry, in coming
Mobile booking and shopping functionality are planned for a
second release later this year, Greyber said. Future releases also are certain
to include "incorporating more of what Mobiata has done," since
Expedia Inc. in November acquired the mobile travel application developer.
"The first release does not leverage the work that Mobiata has done, but
we certainly see doing that in the future as we continue to push the envelope
and pace of innovation," Greyber said.
Developed in-house, Egencia's first release will serve as a
"companion to check to ensure that all arrangements have been made,"
improve the airport experience, provide driving directions and deal with flight
delays, weather and destination logistics, Greyber said.
A "smart itinerary" would provide relevant data
and functions to the traveler at various points, such as flight schedules and
online check-in, interactive maps, security features that include
location-relevant flight and transportation alerts, weather forecasts and a
"click-to-call" button to reach Egencia customer service when an
agent is needed on the phone.
Egencia is researching how to allow "travelers to
interact and find things in an area, whether it's attractions or
restaurants," Greyber said. "There are some hard-wired ways that some
players in the industry have gone about trying to build that walled garden. We
actually think there are some open sources and ways to do that, and we'll have
some of those in the application as well."
At launch next quarter, Egencia plans to support the mobile
functionality in eight languages: U.S. and U.K. English, Dutch, French, French
Canadian, German, Italian and Spanish.
Egencia also plans to integrate the mobile functionality
into an existing travel management program that allows travelers, travel
managers, CFOs or others to access the same information. "The integrity of
the business is maintained even as the travelers' experience is enhanced,"
While elements of the travel policy and management program
are planned for the first release of the new mobile strategy, Greyber said, the
features won't include compliance reminders as the focus is on the traveler.
For several years, Egencia has been "experimenting and
learning about the mobile market" as it introduced various products,
Greyber said. Officials asked travelers and managers what they wanted, but more
importantly Egencia watched how customers used new tools, he said.
The vision is to develop mobile tools and applications that
allow customers to serve themselves in much they same way as they use online
booking technology to self-enable, Greyber said. "Online adoption is such
an important metric because it says to what degree you enabled people to serve
themselves. We will think about mobile in a similar way," he added.
"We don't need to have and actually don't care if
people book online or offline through our service center or tools. Similarly,
we would be more or less indifferent whether people use the phone, tethered
application or a mobile application," Greyber said.
Greyber declined to reveal how much of Egencia's business is
currently via mobile, but said it has increased in recent years. When it bought
two-year-old Mobiata in November, Expedia said mobile business accounts for
roughly 4 percent of Expedia's traffic and grew in 2010 at nearly five times
its pace of 2009.
In the corporate market, mobile appears to be in its infancy
as various buyer polls reveal few have embraced the technology as part of a
managed corporate travel program.
Adoption could escalate if more corporations viewed mobile
as a key traveler safety and security tool, according to a white paper
sponsored by Egencia and produced by The
Beat parent company Business Travel Media Group of Northstar Travel Media.
The white paper recommends that companies as a minimum include "traveler
mobile phone contact information in stored traveler profiles, ensure mobile
devices function in foreign countries, consider SMS messaging if cellular
bandwidth is clogged due to emergencies, provide travel alerts via text message
when travelers are on the road and consider advanced mobile safety
strategies" for employees who regularly travel to high-risk areas.
This report was
originally published by The Beat.