these reservations to manual mode for a while if necessary,” he says. “The back-up plan would be to let travellers go straight to Expedia if a booking-tool outage lasted more than a few days.
“One final note is that technology, such as Microsoft Lync, Skype and the like, is making business travel less relevant. If I need to have a face-to-face meeting with someone in Munich, I can now do that from my base in Seattle, 24 hours a day, while sharing documents and never needing to use my long- distance phone service.” As if to prove the point, Julia Heesterman, Microsoft’s travel
manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was this April due to “attend” a week-long team meeting with Bailey in Seattle – without ever leaving her base in the UK. One can only hope the technology worked.
BACKING UP Paul Tilstone, the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) chief global development officer and European managing director, is reasonably confident that organisations of the size and scale of Microsoft already have back-up plans in place. “Any corporation using
technological solutions for managing travel should ensure the security and reliance upon these systems is incorporated into any company-wide IT risk
The really bad news is that if it does all go horribly wrong, it takes an awfully long time for lessons to be learned...
programme,” he says. “I would’ve thought most bigger companies would already be doing that, both from an immediate direct support element and with technology through the supply chain.” Even so, there are concerns.
“As most companies do not consider travel to be a business- critical function, I doubt whether travel servicing technology would feature heavily in any IT risk programme, but the technology used to communicate with people on the road should be of a higher priority,” Tilstone says. “There are systems out there which allow for widespread communication with staff using all sorts of alternative systems, and any travel buyer worth their salt should not only be considering their company’s requirements and appropriate solutions at the high functioning end, but also at the lowest common denominator of communication technology.” He continues: “Staying on top of what is out there is not always easy, so I think that this is an area in which the existing supply chain, especially the TMCs, can add considerable value to the buyers and their organisations.”
WHILE SOME EXPERTS believe the world’s law- enforcement agencies are ill-prepared for cyber- terrorism – an attack is seen as almost inevitable – travel technology experts say security is improving. Dr William Tafoya, professor of criminal justice at Connecticut’s University of New Haven, warns: “Criminals are menacing our cyber-shores, preparing to launch a large-scale attack. What is clear is that it will happen; what is not obvious is when.” However, Mark Gibaldi, vice-president of cyber security and risk at Travelport, says new technologies bring new safeguards. “While it is true that new technologies sometimes create new vulnerabilities, new technologies are also enabling new levels of robustness, inter-company cooperation, and entirely new capabilities,” he says. “It is important that GDS providers remain
focused on not only the new capabilities, but also the enhancements to robustness and security that are becoming available.” Has the corporate travel sector simply become
too reliant on technology? “Technology components that make up what,
to a user, is a single transaction, are becoming more complex with more interdependent moving parts,” Gibaldi concedes. “However, at the same time advances in technologies, as well as in processes, are allowing us to consolidate multiple steps into a single service. These ‘services’ can be refined and improved and then re-used across various solutions. This re-use allows us to focus on ensuring that this service is robust and secure, rather than spending our efforts in duplicating the functionality within each application or solution we write.” Travel generally entails a range of different
technologies, few of which are interlinked, but again Gibaldi believes things are improving. “While many other industries traditionally
have been able to provide services completely in- house, this has rarely been the case within the travel space,” he says. “However, other industries are beginning to move to complex inter- company partnerships and transactions, and this trend is providing a benefit to travel companies because it has resulted in new technology standards which support robust, inter-company multi-participant transactions.”
Such added value cannot come soon enough, because the really bad news is that if it does all go horribly wrong, it takes an awfully long time for lessons to be learned. On March 5 this year, the
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) finally got around to publishing its guidance on how airlines should react to volcanic ash clouds – nearly two years after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. ■