AI will play a big part in corporate travel management technology: Ross Fastuca, Travelport Locomote

Ross Fastuca of Travelport Locomote discusses the pain points of the corporate travel industry and how travel technology can help counter challenges

Ross Fastuca

Author

An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’

Travelport Locomote is a corporate travel platform that claims to reduce travel spend by simplifying approval, booking and expensing processes. The platform helps companies manage multiple aspects of their business travel including travel requests and approvals, bookings, duty of care and current situation of intended destination, budget, insurance, expenses and reporting from any device globally. In an exclusive interview with Techseen, Ross Fastuca, CIO and Co-Founder Travelport Locomote, talks about the corporate travel technology industry, its challenges and the future. Excerpts

Techseen: Travelport bought majority stakes in Locomote which is your company. You came up with the idea of Locomote because you said you understood the pain points of corporate travel and you felt it was disjointed. Is it true?

Fastuca: Before we started Locomote, we went into the market and got introduced to corporate travel and found out that the process was cumbersome and no one was solving the major issues that corporates face in transit and around transit. We spend a lot of time validating the solution that corporates would like to use and came up with this idea. We wanted to develop an end-to-end chain of corporate travel platform and make their travel process easier, which would eventually reduce their travel spends and simplifying approval booking.

Techseen: How important do you think is technology infrastructure at the core when it comes to solutions for corporate travel?

Fastuca: I think that having a good IT infrastructure is pivotal for businesses in general. It helps optimize efficiencies and minimizes costs and helps enable proper communications; technology is what underpins all that. For corporate travel we want the platform to be as self-managed as possible and want our customers to have good access to internet so that they can have a seamless experience in their day-to-day work. Our business recognizes the importance of technology and are investing in it heavily.

recognizes: What are the challenges you faced when it came to onboard companies with your solution and platform?

Fastuca: As we talk to corporates, we are finding that we are solving more and more of their problems and as we expand and grow we continue to identify more things that can add value to the platform. Because we have built our platform in an agile way we can deliver value to our customers quickly. Our biggest challenge is to ensure that we are staying on the core problems and the highest priority of the corporates, because they have interesting variations of how they travel.

We are really trying to make sure that we get a broader sense of the industry and also making sure that we address the issues not necessarily in a traditional way but in a way to simplify the travel in terms of experience, costs and efficiencies.

Techseen: Corporate travel has always been there, through agents or booking applications, how does your platform ease the process?

Fastuca: We found a lot of technologies already present in the corporate travel space, specifically in the leisure space. But we felt that they were all lacking in terms of user experience, or a new platform experience that would at it core, address the corporate problems, that too not being from the leisure travel technology space. I think that was a point for us to thrive as we were the newer technology, an application that can is not device agnostic and can address problems in a different way and move fast with the solution only for corporates.

Techsen: What about engagement? What is the main channel that you use?

Fastuca: Mobile is going to play a big part in engagement. We are working closely with Travelport which came on board as a key partner in Locomote and having recently acquired a company in the mobile space called MTT, we can have access to data that will help us improve the engagement with the traveller on a mobile device.

Techseen: Wasn’t Locomote always a mobile-first company?

Fastuca: Yes, we always had a mobile focus. Making sure that the platform can work on any device anywhere in the world. The additional MTT which was acquired by Travelport is there to help build travel applications. They build applications for Singapore Airlines and EasyJet as well as work for some of the largest travel management companies. Thanks to our partner, we are able to leverage that expertise and accelerate the development in our mobile space.

Techseen: Are there any tools you use to monitor trends? What about behavioral analytics or AI? Is there something in the pipeline?

Fastuca: We use a variety of tools to monitor the trends around the world. I personally feel AI will play a big part when it comes to travel technology. AI will be able to recommend travel, simplify complex itinerary and be able to add a whole new level of personalizations for the traveller. It will become like your personal assistant while you travel.

Techseen: You must be getting huge amounts of data. How do you provide your partners with actionable analytics?

Fastuca: Analytics is one of the important things that we have on our platform, this is because we capture such a breadth of data, which is quite unique by comparison. We are also working closely with companies who provide business intelligence tools as we want to be the data provider for the corporate travel industry. We want to become a single point where corporates can get all their travel needs and also look at how people are travelling and saving money.

The data we get is given to corporates to make actionable decisions about their travel and how efficiently they can do so to make the process seamless and economical.

Techseen: You claim to be the ‘first end-to-end corporate travel platform’ in the market. What are the gaps that you see that are in travel management tech solutions? What does the industry need?

Fastuca: Most of the technology focuses on just the booking and after-booking. In corporate travel, booking is just one aspect in the end-to-end travel chain. Some of the technologies have integrated booking and expense, which again is fine but is still the booking component that needs to be robust. It needs to have all the compliance issues figured out, there are a lot of discussions and planning that goes into travel so that too needs to be features in a workflow manner.

Our major strength is that the way we built out platform, the booking component is just one component, we have a variety of services that makes it end-to-end and have flexible workflows to address all issues of corporate travel.

Techseen: A lot of old-school people still have indirect methods of getting their travel booked, as compared to millennial, who would be enamored by your platform. Is this true?

Fastuca: Yes definitely, our whole company is full of Gen Y, I think our success has always come because of Gen Y and people wanting to take control of their own travels. We are all about enabling the end user to be able to book and manage their end-to-end travel on their own. A company like Locomote would facilitate that for those people who would like to plan and book everything online using mobile. So Gen Y is the ones we target since they can relate to the user experience.

Techseen: What the future of corporate travel tech?

Fastuca: I think mobile is going to take over, people will be more self sufficient and would want things done quicker. In the next two years there is going to be a lot of advancements in automation and self-booking as people will be having 100% of their corporate travel online. Travel agents will be very specialized and targeted, and a lot of the general trips will be completely booked and planned online. I think the travels will also be able to handle more complexities with the change in technology and plan their trips.

Excelero steps out of stealth mode with NVMesh 1.1
Euronet partners Infinitium to promote digital payments in India