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The Human Factor in Executive Travel Management - Blog Series #1

Why People Matter More Than Ever


In this blog series, we will delve into various aspects of executive travel management highlighting how important the human factor is in enhancing each stage of the business trip. From meticulous itinerary planning to real-time problem resolution and personalised travel advice, we will show how the human element is irreplaceable.


In our first blog, we will take a closer look at what automation has historically contributed to the business travel sector, the concerns humans have about robots, and the benefits of digital transformation.


#1: Technological Advancements


In recent years, the business travel sector has witnessed significant technological advancements. From AI-driven booking systems to sophisticated executive travel management tools, these innovations promise efficiency and convenience. However, there's a growing concern that machines, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) might replace the human touch in travel planning.


Robots booking business travel on computers

Before we go any further, let's address a few key questions: Is robotics part of AI? Is AI part of robotics? Where do machines come into it? What is the difference between the three terms?

Robotics and AI are two related fields of science and technology, but with several differences. Robotics is the discipline that deals with designing machines capable of automating tasks. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence is a branch of computing that studies how machines can mimic the cognitive processes of humans, learning and reasoning in order to solve problems and carry out specific tasks, just as a human being would.


*That is a simplified explanation, which hopefully doesn't over simplify the concepts but explains enough for the purpose of this blog.


 

Our latest blog series aims to address these areas in more detail whilst demonstrating how technology, rather than replacing humans, enhances their ability to provide exceptional customer service.


But, firstly we will look back, to see how technology and robotics disrupted the automative industry and how this created new opportunities using human intelligence

 

#2: Humans versus Robots


In 1913, Henry Ford introduced the first automotive assembly line. At the time, humans were required to perform individual tasks that were eventually perfected enough to then be accomplished more and more by robots. Rather than taking away jobs, however, this freed up humans to innovate and invent advancements in automotive engineering such as air bags, power steering, better braking systems and even seat belts.


Ford assembly link showing robots building cars

A Ford assembly line with a worker attaching a gas tank. (circa 1923) Robots produce a car every 30 seconds at The Hyundai plant in Chennai.


What machines are doing is taking on tasks that don’t require human complexity of thought. In fact, human intelligence is growing and as human intelligence grows so does our ability to programme a machine to perform tasks that were once too complex for it to understand.


From the earliest days of computers, they had to be programmed to understand the most basic concepts, which allowed them to then “compute” outcomes faster than a human brain. But they could not compute outcomes they had not been programmed to do. Conversely, what was programmed once did not need to be programmed again, but could be built upon instead.


When computers first started being used by the public, they could only recognise very specific commands coded in a very specific way. An excellent travel industry example of this is the Global Distribution System (GDS) that links reservation inventory under one computer-based network.


The travel industry itself has always benefited from human expertise and personal touch, but was also an industry that was one of the early adopters of technology. Even despite the advent of online booking platforms in the early 2000s, travel agents and consultants continued to play a vital role in ensuring smooth and tailored travel experiences.


 

#3: Digital Transformation


Monotonous tasks create unhappy employees because humans naturally want to explore, innovate, and create. Machines and AI, however, remove or replace the repetitive and boring aspects of a human's job. Enabling people in this way ultimately not only improves their job performance but demonstrates an investment in them as individuals. It encourages them to become more engaged employees, which is essential to shaping a nimble culture.


Research indicates that executive travellers who use human agents often report higher satisfaction due to personalised service and problem-solving capabilities that machines simply cannot replicate.


So, where do humans fit into digital transformation?       

                                           

Human insight is essential to navigate the limitless choices that the digital world offers, as human judgement and creativity allows us to focus on what really matters. So, instead of focusing on technology or data as being the core of digital transformation, the facts are that it is more crucial to look at humans as the key to its success.


 

Summarising the Human Factor in Executive Travel Management


We've explored the impact of technological advancements on the travel industry, emphasising the irreplaceable value of the human touch in travel planning. We've examined how machines and AI, while increasing efficiency, cannot replicate the personalised service and problem-solving skills of human agents.


By looking at the historical collaboration between humans and robots, particularly in the automotive sector, we see that automation enhances human productivity rather than replacing it. Ultimately, the success of digital transformation hinges on human judgment and creativity, underscoring the importance of focusing on people as the core of this evolution.



Writing for Business Insider, Loup Ventures’ Doug Clinton put forward an interesting view in that "humans have three core capabilities with which robots cannot compete: creativity, community, and empathy."



Stay tuned for our next blog, "The Humans," where we'll delve into how services are evolving from being purely transactional to delivering rich, experiential interactions, ensuring that your business travel trips are not just efficient but truly productive.





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