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Tech advances to energize corporate travel industry

By Shi Jing in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-11 08:06
Visitors take selfies at Victoria Peak, using the harbor as a backdrop.[Photo by Yuan Shuiling/For China Daily]

Technological advancements and rising labor costs will help China's booming corporate travel industry to become more intelligent, diversified and customized, a new industry report said on Tuesday.

According to the 2017 China Corporate Travel Market Analysis Report, the size of the corporate travel market in the country reached 158.7 billion yuan ($24.3 billion) in 2017, up 8.4 percent from a year earlier. It is expected to grow by 9.6 percent year-on-year to 174 billion yuan in 2018, said the report jointly complied by Ctrip Corporate Travel Management and Pinchain Travel, an online tourism consultancy.

Meanwhile, people have moved from offline to online channels to book flights and hotel rooms because of the proliferation of smartphones, it said. About 65 percent of the Chinese small- and medium-sized enterprises made such reservations on mobile devices last year. Reservations made via smartphone applications took up 60 percent of the total orders last year in China.

In this sense, service providers can turn to artificial intelligence to replace the costly labor-intensive call centers, which can also simplify the service process, said Wang Zhuo, founder and chief executive officer of Pinchain Travel.

"Service providers can also quote prices, negotiate and make deals based on the precise data provided by artificial intelligence," she said.

Applications for business travel management will become more tailor-made according to the different types and demand of companies with the help of big data and artificial intelligence so that business travelers can reduce the time spent on planning, she added.

Sharing economy service providers such as Didi Chuxing and Airbnb have also become increasingly popular among business travelers. Therefore, travel management companies should diversify their services to keep in tune with the latest market demand.

China overtook the United States to become the world's largest corporate travel market in 2016 with its size reaching 146.5 billion yuan. Food processing, public utilities and construction were the top three industries with the biggest budgets for business travel.

Popular domestic business travel destinations include Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, while overseas locations included Tokyo, Seoul and Paris.

Despite the market size and the rising domestic demand, there is no clear leader in the Chinese corporate travel industry. Over the past three years, the top five industry leaders only took up 17.5 percent of the total market share, while the number is over 50 percent in mature markets, said Fang Jiqin, chief executive officer of Ctrip Corporate Travel.

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