Most corporate travelers take a trusted companion along with them on every trip: a mobile device. But for all their convenience, mobile devices have one downside — they make it easy for travelers to skirt corporate travel programs. Because of this, many travel industry professionals are seeking a mobile strategy that embraces these devices’ convenience while improving corporate-sanctioned travel services for business travelers.

The number of mobile apps and tools designed to make travel more seamless is dizzying, from branded airline and hotel apps to online travel agency apps to mobile mapping, Uber, and other transportation tools. Many executives use these tools widely for leisure travel, and in the absence of clear direction from corporate, turn to them when traveling for business, too. Particularly when travelers are rebooking, it can seem faster and easier to manage trips through third-party travel apps than to reach out to the corporate travel provider for help.

However, this can be costly to companies, as those new plans may not make use of preferred providers. Using third-party apps also causes travelers to lose visibility into their corporate providers, and makes it difficult for employers to ensure safety, get accurate data on travel usage and make the most cost-effective use of travel dollars.

Those costs can add up. According to the GBTA Foundation, a trade group, in the U.S. alone business travel spending is expected to increase by 1.9 percent in 2016, to $295.7 billion, and business travel volume is forecast to increase by 2.1 percent, to 508.6 million trips.

Mobile Strategy Benefits for Corporations and Travelers

Perhaps the biggest reason corporate travelers turn to whichever third-party tools have caught their attention is because most companies — almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) — have no mobile strategy of their own, according to separate research by the GBTA Foundation in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and the Carlson Family Foundation. While some have endorsed particular apps, few have a comprehensive strategy in place that takes into account how mobile apps and tools can support their overall goals.

That will change, fast. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of travel professionals surveyed will implement a mobile strategy in the next two years, according to the report. They see the biggest benefits to this move as increasing corporate traveler engagement (78 percent) and increasing compliance (55 percent). But they also know there will be challenges, including IT security (a concern held by 41 percent of respondents), travelers owning their own devices (32 percent) and too many decision makers (21 percent).

Changing corporate traveler habits can also be tough, so any strategy will need to make it easier and more rewarding for them to use the corporate program than the variety of third-party tools they were using before. The report suggests some capabilities that benefit businesses and travelers alike:

  • Sending travelers alerts for the best rates and when to book
  • Easy booking and rebooking
  • Mobile wallets tied to corporate accounts
  • SMS messaging with corporate travel professionals
  • Links to preferred providers and rates
  • Mobile expense management tools
  • Safety updates on intended destinations
  • Flight status alerts

An effective mobile strategy doesn’t automatically mean replacing all those convenient third-party travel apps with one sponsored by the business. As the report notes, “Embracing mobile apps that were not developed with only the business traveler in mind can still be advantageous to a travel program.” But incorporating those apps intelligently into an overarching mobile strategy can be a win-win for corporate travelers and their companies.

Mobile devices don’t just offer traveling professionals helpful apps — they also offer guests mobile payment options, which are becoming increasingly popular.