Travel Incorporated was recently featured in The Beat for leading the way in bringing artificial intelligence to your travel program.

TMC's Play With Natural Language Interfaces For Data Reporting

The Beat ~ a travel business newsletter


Corporate clients regularly turn to their travel management companies for data reporting to better understand travel spending, policy compliance, supplier performance and other facets of program management. A few TMCs, including Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Omega World Travel and Travel Inc., are exploring new ways for clients to interrogate travel program data through natural language, either typed in text or spoken by voice.

Last month, Carlson Wagonlit Travel launched, with a few clients, the first iteration of its Google-like search interface so users of its AnalytIQs reporting suite can pose questions in free text and get data visualizations in return. Omega and Travel Inc., meanwhile, are playing with voice commands for clients to get data-based insights. Both are tapping into the Amazon Alexa platform and exploring other voice channels.

"People were coming to us saying, 'Can we have a report that does this?' or, 'Your report doesn't quite do this,'" CWT chief technology officer Andrew Jordan said in a recent interview. CWT's solution: "Give them one box and use natural language," he said.

He used a very specific example to demonstrate capabilities: "You can effectively type a query in natural language and say: 'Show me all my travelers that are flying on Tuesday to Tokyo who didn't adhere to policy.' As you're typing those terms into the search bar, it builds these dynamic dashboards in real time beneath. It's a completely different way of thinking about accessing data."

Asked how he expects clients to interact with data through a natural language interface, Jordan said, "You can ask it anything you want. I think it's going to vary, and it's going to be a bit of a journey for people once they have access to it."

Travel Inc.'s proprietary data reporting system for clients is called Evolution, and the TMC has been developing its Evolution Voice Assistant, EVA for short. Now in alpha testing, the bot engine initially will be compatible with Amazon Alexa, though the company is exploring other voice interfaces, said Travel Inc. platform engineer Eric Almond.

"Our core focus was not really the Amazon technology as much as reshaping our information to be naturally available for AI and voice responses," he said.

EVA supports more than 60 voice commands. "Our focus is really to tackle every level of a travel organization, whether it's management, a travel arranger or the travelers themselves."

EVA can address queries related to traveler locations for risk management purposes. For travelers, it can deliver information on their individual trips, such as on-time status and itinerary details.

As for mining travel data, Almond said users could ask about year-to-date travel spend, hotel night volume and citypair information, among other data points. Based on responses to such questions, a user then can compare metrics to prior-year data. Travel Inc. also is working predictive capabilities. "What will that look like next quarter?" Almond suggested as one query.

While voice can be a handy way for clients to ask about data, it's not always ideal for answers: A bot rattling off 100 city pairs by voice doesn't create a great user experience.

Travel Inc.'s solution lets users configure the system to have reports or data visualizations sent via their preferred channels: "the ability to say: 'Who are my top 100 travelers?' Then, the next command is, 'Can you send that to me?' That gets routed based on whether you configured it for mobile or email," said Almond.

Travel Inc. also is working on voice commands to create real-time dashboards for users in an online desktop computer environment.

Almond said the collision of natural language with the travel industry's jargon poses challenges. "Amazon understands the names of corporations or vendors: Delta Air Lines, Marriott—those types of names. On theflip side, one of the things they don't deal with is airport codes," Almond said.

Further, each client has unique ways of talking about his or her company, including internal division names. "The challenge in this environment is working with the travel lingo and languages and dealing with customer and client codes and all of these things that Amazon doesn't understand or care to understand," said Almond. "We're working to make the user experience the best possible so that they can navigate using their voice and the terms they're used to working with: their divisions, their company names. The delivery of information is fairly seamless. It's getting them to ask the right question and have it feel natural. That's what we're currently working through."

Omega also is finalizing an Alexa skill to support its Omegalytics reporting system, said VP of IT and data analytics Nadim Hajje.

Already, the TMC has been a champion of using the Alexa interface to extend travel management services. It already has published its first Alexa skill to support risk management and traveler tracking: "Alexa, where are my travelers?"

The first iteration of commingling Alexa with Omegalytics will focus on airline-related data queries, such as top carriers and city pairs. Hotel-related queries are next, Hajje noted.

~ Jay Boehmer
To view this story online, click here.
Copyright 2018. Northstar Travel Group, LLC.  271140:0618DD


New Distribution Capabilities
The What, Why, and When of the 'NDC'

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to do a side-by-side shopping comparison when booking your next flight? With the New Distribution Capabilities (NDC), you can, or, at least, you will. Find out the what, why, and when of the NDC, and how it will benefit you.

For more than 40 years, the technology behind airline content distribution has been relatively unchanged. Airlines have consistently provided choice of route, price, and seat availability. However, with the addition of bundled ancillary products such as WiFi, ability to pre-purchase meals, and expanded leg room, the need for a more flexible technology is required to deliver a clear view of cost vs. value. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of buzz about NDC, and now that we are starting to see some tangible relevancy, TI wants to bring our thoughts to you.

What is the NDC?

In very technical terms, the NDC is a travel industry program launched by IATA (International Air Transport Association) for the development and market adoption of a new, XML-based data standard for new content distribution. 

In practical terms, the NDC will allow users to see all purchasing details and options of flights in a side-by-side, comparative view. It is taking an antiquated booking system and updating it to fit today's technological capabilities.

What Benefit Does the NDC Provide?

The NDC will allow airlines to deliver a richer, more transparent set of purchasing options for a flight, allowing for airline digital and ancillary content, cabin class differentiations, inclusion of checked bags, booking, and ticketing - and it will do so in a consistent infrastructure across all participating carriers allowing them to be shopped in a side-by-side comparison. The business traveler will benefit as a result of the NDC's transformation of the way their air products are retailed, including:
  • Product differentiation and time-to-market
  • Access to full and rich air content
  • Transparent shopping experience
Clearly, with more options, Travel Incorporated will work with you to advise on travel policy adjustments, accommodate the bundled options, and then support effective communications to achieve the right balance of traveler productivity vs. cost.

What is the Anticipated Timeline and Dependencies?

As the NDC is reliant not only on the GDS to develop to the airline, but the airline to make its content available through the NDC standards, they are in the earliest stages of implementation. TI expects 18 months before the content is fully in place.

Travel Incorporated executives sit on the advisory boards of the travel industry's largest airlines and GDS's, which provides us a unique understanding of distribution opportunities for our clients. We will work with our partners to ensure you have the newest content to service your travel program.


Airplane Etiquette

Attention travelers, we will now begin the boarding process. Need to know what to do when boarding? Do you know your responsibilities when seated by the window? What about what to wear? Read and learn fellow business traveler! And just remember, we're all in this together!

Don't rush but don't dally.
Unless you're the family from Home Alone who slept in (twice), there's no need to run or shove past people through the airport. On that same note, there's also no need to walk at a glacial pace in the middle of the airport or when going through security. Arrive at least two hours early to give yourself enough time to get through security. Be ready when going through security - have your paperwork and identification out, your shoes off (unless you have TSA Pre✓®), and laptops out. More than 1.9 million passengers go through security each day. It's important to get through quickly and safely. 

Be patient when boarding. 
Ever see passengers start to line up to board the plane before the plane has even pulled up to the gate? Passengers gather to squeeze in line like a herd of wildebeest, and the last one has no overhead space. The order of boarding is typically those who have status on the airlines (i.e. frequent flyer points), then first and business class passengers, priority boarding, and then the remaining blocks or groups. If you find yourself in Zone 3 or 4, consider checking your carry on luggage at the counter and then waiting patiently. Be considerate of others when boarding, shoving and trying to cut the next person in line only causes more stress, and traveling is stressful enough. 

Where to put your bag? 
While it's tempting to put your carry on luggage in the first empty overhead space you can find, that's not fair to the other passengers sitting underneath that space and can delay departure. Utilize the overhead space above or across from your own seat row. Place lighter items or items you will use in your seat pocket or underneath the seat in front of you. Lastly, always be swift and alert when putting your luggage in the overhead bin, as others might be waiting for you to store your luggage so they can get their seats behind or across from you. 

Who gets the armrests? 
Although the middle seat armrests are shared property, it's generous to give the middle seat holders a chance to claim them first. Why? While the window seat passenger and aisle seat passenger are able to lean more to one side, the middle seat passenger is not afforded that luxury. Because they are in a somewhat less uncomfortable position, they deserve those arm rests. 

Seat Backs? 
Although most seats only recline up to 3 inches, personal space is a premium on airplanes.There is a time for upright seats, and there's a time to recline.  FAA regulations say seat backs must be in their upright position during take-off and landing. It's courteous to keep your seat upright during the drink and/or meal service. Before slowly reclining your seat, take a quick glance behind you. It allows you to make sure you won't hit any knees, bobble an iPad or spill any drinks. 

Restroom, waiting in line? or wait in your seat?
FAA regulations state that passengers should remain in their seats while the seat belt sign is lit. When the seat belt sign is off, passengers are allowed to roam about the cabin, which includes waiting in line for the airplane lavatory. 

What to wear? 
If you're a first time business traveler, this question is for you. Clothes best suited for business travel should be lightweight (unless climate dictates otherwise), wrinkle resistant, and stylish but not flashy. Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to take on and off through security (unless you have TSA Pre✓®). While it may be tempting to dress in yoga pants and tennis shoes during the flight, by dressing in business casual attire, you're ready for business when you get off the plane (despite a delay or lost luggage). Airlines cater to business travelers, dress the part and you may find you have an added measure of service.

Be Considerate. 
Be considerate of one another throughout the flight. Keep conversations low while on the plane, use headphones when watching a movie or listening to music, and be considerate when others have headphones in. Under the weather? Bring extra tissues and hand sanitizer for those coughing/sneezing fits. Don't be afraid to alert the flight attendant if you're feeling ill or need further assistance. If you have a tight connection, let others know around you. If you don't have a tight connection, it's courteous to let those go before you so they may make their connections. We all have a destination to get to, and we're all in this together. 

Shmanners podcast: http://www.maximumfun.org/shmanners/travel-boats-and-planes
CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/22/travel/plane-annoying-things/
Travel + Leisure: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/a-guide-to-flying-etiquette 
FAA: http://www.faa.gov/
TSA Pre✓®: https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck


Cool Apps & Gadgets That Make Business Travel Easier

'Tis the season for cool apps and gadgets that are perfect for the business traveler. Which apps or gadgets do you love?


Moovit - The #1 global app for public transportation
Say goodbye to waiting for that bus, train or subway that isn't coming and say hello to Moovit, your free, local transit planner. Great for business travelers in areas that are too crowded to rent a car or flag a taxi. 
Available on iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock - Waking up made easy 
An intelligent alarm clock that analyzes your sleep and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase - the natural way to wake up feeling rested and relaxed. It's difficult enough to sleep in a place that's not home, why not make it easy? 
Available for iOS or Android Phone.

DogVacay - Forget the kennel!
With DogVacay, your pet can stay in a real home with a loving sitter while you're away. With DogVacay, your pet stays in a sitter’s home or yours, whether you’re traveling or just out for the day. Perfect for those business travelers who treat their pups like family. 
Available for iOS or Android Phone. 

MyTSA - Get through security quickly!
'My TSA' giver you 24/7 access to information that passengers frequently request from the TSA. Features include a quick search for items allowed through the checkpoint onto the airplane, which airports support TSA PreCheck, and wait times at TSA security checkpoints. Can you bring that gift to your company or client? Quickly find out here!
Available for iOS or Android Phone. 

bSafe - The end of worry
bSafe provides you with several features to make you feel safe from alerting friends and family of your location, if you're in danger, setting up a fake call, and having family track you via GPS to your location. Perfect for ensuring your family and friends that you're safe while traveling on your next business trip. 
Available for iOS or Android Phone. 

Giftry - Your gift giving personal assistant
Just in time for the holidays! Add gift ideas to your wish list from any store the moment you see them. Share your gift wish list with family and friends and mark gifts as purchased so others won't buy the same thing. Perfect for those busy business travelers who don't have time to write down their wishlist. Download this app, and add these gadgets below! 
Available for iOS or Android Phone. 


Mujjo Leather Wallet Case for iPhone
The Mujjo Leather Wallet Case for iPhone is designed to hold two to three credit cards (or hotel key cards), allowing travelers to leave the bulky wallet behind. Each case is made from high quality vegetable-tanned leather.

Hotel shampoo can be hit or miss, but equipped with GoToobs, frequent travelers can carry along their own favorite toiletries in squeezable, no-drip bottles that are BPA-free and carry-on approved.

Jackery Mini
The Jackery Mini may be small -- about the size of a lipstick -- but it packs a powerful punch. Available in four colors, a Jackery Mini in your purse or pocket means a full phone charge (or two or three) is never out of reach.

Knomad Portable Organizer
Smart phone, tablet, passport, credit cards, pen ... it all fits within the Knomad Portable Organizer. This ultimate item for professionals on the go keeps all the essentials organized and easy to reach, while protecting valuable gadgets from bumps and drops. http://www.knomobags.com/usa/knomad/knomad-mini

What do you get for the Boomer who has everything? Something practical, sleek and really cool. ThinOptics are reading glasses that fit in a credit-card sized case that adheres to the back of your cell phone, and comfortably clamps to the bridge of your nose. You will never misplace those menu readers again.

Airframe Portable Car Mount
This device solves the problem of having to balance your mobile phone on your lap to read GPS directions. The Airframe grips the phone and locks it into the car's air vent - at the optimal angle for viewing - and releases easily. A must-have for road-trippers of all ages. 

HUSH Earplugs
The world's' first smart earplugs. These tripped out earplugs block out annoying noises - but not the alarm or an important phone call. Perfect for those tech travelers who can't be bothered with outside noises. 

RINGLY - Jewelry meets technology 
One ring to rule them all - phone notifications that is. This jewelry is not only chic but keeps you connected without having to look at your phone. Get the notifications you want from the apps that are most important to you. The ring will vibrate or light colors based on the type of importance and notification you choose. It's perfect for that savvy business fashionista. 

Lumo Lift - The solution to poor posture 
Fix your posture with Lumo Lift. Lumo Lift attaches to your clothing and connect to a sensor across from you. The sensor will vibrate if you start to slouch, coaching you back to better posture. Better posture equals less back pain, heightened confidence overtime. This is the perfect gift for those health conscious business slouchers. 


How to create a risk management program in 5 steps

Business travel can expose employees to various risk. It’s essential for organizations to have the right plan in place for your business travelers.  

There are several reasons why travel risk management is relevant to any organization that engages in business travel. One reason is to fulfill Duty of Care: the legal and moral responsibility of companies for the safety and well-being of their employees. 

According to GBTA, “a large majority (83%) of respondents say their travel program has risk management protocols in place.” For the other 17% who do not have protocols in place or intend to have one, here are some key points to consider when creating your travel risk management program. 

1. Have a Risk Management Team
Your risk management team should consist of the travel manager, security officers, HR, Legal counsel, or other key stakeholders and personnel. Travel risk management is a joint effort of various internal parties. The responsibility of the team will vary depending on the organization.

2. Seek help from a security specialist
Seeking outside help is important for creating and managing a travel risk management program. By working closely with a travel security specialist such as iJet, International SOS, or The Anvil Group as well as your travel management company, you get access to specialist expertise, advanced intelligence feeds and the right technology needed to fulfill your duty of care requirements while effectively managing business travel related risks. 

3. Partner with a proactive travel management company (like Travel Incorporated!)
A travel management company plays a vital role in travel risk management. TMC’s work closely in partnership with the travel security providers and can push destination information generated by the security provider to customer booking travel to those destinations and help out implement the appropriate travel authorization process.

In addition, your travel management company will maintain traveler profiles, which are essential for tracking your traveler’s whereabouts in case of an emergency, bring traveler home or rearrange their trips when problems arise. 

4. Equip your team with the right technology tools
Usually, companies have two options, you source the relevant travel management software and tools yourself or approach a third-party provider, such as a TMC to source the right business travel technology solutions for you.

Travel Incorporated’s proprietary crisis management tools such as PeopleTrack Assist and WatchGuard are a crucial part of our clients’ duty of care responsibilities.

5. Practice
“By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” Don’t wait until a crisis arises only to realize your crisis management plan has a significant fail point. Depending upon the types of risk your organization encounters and the severity of the situation will determine how often your team practices. Review your plan with your risk management team on a strategic level and do any necessary drills on an operational level.

Statistics show that most organizations will experience a crisis at least every four to five years. Planning for this inevitability is the key to successful crisis management. Regardless of the crisis, have the right team in mind, seek help from a security specialist, partner with a proactive travel management company, have the right tools available to your organization, and practice your plan. By taking these proactive approaches, your organization will be prepared in a moment of chaos.  


Web Based or Apps? Which is Best?

In today’s world, millennials excel in technology. With iPads, iPhones, the newly released Apple Watch, and who knows what is just around the corner, these young executives make it happen. The one thing we have learned is that whatever the technology, it needs to be simple and maintenance free. What we mean by maintenance free is, eliminating the need to upgrade applications that you run on your devices. For instance, the Apps you have loaded on your devices inherently require updating, hence the term “Lifecycle Maintenance”.

Travel Incorporated employs forward thinking programmers who had the foresight to envision the pitfalls of Apps and, instead, created applications that are web based. Therefore there are no apps needed to run our technology and no updating required. All you need is an internet connection! When our technology receives a revision it is automatically passed onto the client without downloading any type of update. That’s one less headache for you to deal with in your busy day. If you would like to learn more about technology by Travel Incorporated, please contact the sales department.