Travel and Expense

Tap into the Power of AI to Transform Your Business Travel

Charlie Sultan |

The business travel experience is ready for a refresh as disruptions drive inconvenience for employees and budgets. According to this year’s SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey, 88% of business travelers globally report taking unanticipated steps in the past 12 months because of unexpected challenges, like spending additional time on the road (38%) or incurring additional expenses (36%). However, artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to help travelers navigate the unexpected.

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Although SAP Concur has used AI in travel and expense (T&E) solutions for a decade, we’re rapidly adding features that use generative AI to make the most of this emerging technology. Companies that use integrated T&E tools stand to realize the biggest gains: AI will not only improve the business travel experience but many of the processes surrounding it as well, from finance to procurement.

Our survey found that 64% of travel managers globally would like to see AI used to automate at least some of their responsibilities. Meanwhile, 95% of business travelers would consider using AI-powered automation to support their tasks, including visa and documentation support (37%), capturing and reporting expenses (37%), finding sustainable travel options (37%), and more.

Here are a few ways businesses can use AI to streamline T&E, both now and in the very near future.

6th Annual Global Business Travelers Research Report

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Enhanced Booking Experiences

The more that AI manages in the corporate travel process, the better the insights, the sharper its suggestions, and the more streamlined the plan-to-expense process can be. As the technology continues to develop, AI will help employees reclaim more time typically spent on administrative tasks and further support organizations in cutting costs without cutting corners.

While the appetite for AI is strong, especially when it addresses the specific pain points that come with booking travel, businesses will need to ensure they roll out AI tools in a responsible manner. Overall, 89% of business travelers say they are open to using AI-enabled booking options with training or certain assurances in place. More than one in five (22%) view AI-enabled travel recommendations as critical for inclusion in their company’s travel booking tool.

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While 19% of business travelers say they want an AI-curated list of booking options based on their preferences and needs, many (34%) would still rather review and book their business trips themselves.

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There is also some generational discomfort with AI today—and it runs counter to stereotypes. Ninety-five percent of Gen Z and 92% of millennial business travelers say they are uncomfortable using AI-enabled booking tools, compared to 83% of Gen X and 68% of baby boomers. Company-provided training and the assurance that tools are reliable and won’t create any bias could help alleviate the discomfort.

Real-Time Tracking and Analysis 

The tremendous amount of data that integrated T&E provides makes it an ideal application for using AI to recognize patterns that aren’t visible to the human eye. However, this will require some patience on the part of business leaders and having the right tools on hand to maximize the value of AI advancements.

In our survey, 42% of travel managers included company directives to cut travel costs amidst ongoing challenges among the top factors that will make their job more difficult in the next 12 months. Thirty-two percent cited cutting back on business travel costs as their company’s top focus when it comes to business travel. Without powerful reporting tools—supported by AI—baked into their T&E solution, they will be hard-pressed to satisfy leaders and keep costs in check.

In harnessing predictive analytics, AI can help optimize compliance and travel spend to keep costs to a minimum while improving productivity and user experience. For instance, with Request Assistant in Concur Request, business travelers can develop data-backed estimates for business trips before any spend happens, facilitating speedy approvals and helping to stay on budget. AI-powered auditing solutions like Concur Detect by Oversight can also help by looking at patterns in expense data to identify fraud and repetitive misuse, protecting the company and its capital.

Policy Compliance and Development

When every dollar spent must be accounted for, AI can offer practical solutions to the challenges of T&E compliance. After all, compliance isn't just about rules. It’s about creating consistent, seamless, and efficient processes. Using AI, automation, and data, companies can reduce non-compliant spending, mitigate risks, and enhance the overall employee experience—with some conditions.

Thirty-five percent of business travelers are willing to consider using AI-powered automation to help them comply with their organization’s travel policy. However, to feel comfortable using AI-enabled options to book business travel, nearly half of business travelers (48%) want assurance that their personal data will be protected. Nearly a third (32%) want their company to provide assurance they won’t face repercussions if the AI-suggested bookings don’t comply with company policy.

Data security is a top priority for SAP Concur, and integrated solutions like Concur Travel, Concur Expense, and Concur Request—including the Request Assistant feature—can help support compliance through AI and automation while easing repercussion concerns. They give business travelers a better, more streamlined experience for booking travel and submitting expenses. Meanwhile, travel managers and finance teams can easily approve and process expenses. It’s a win for both sides.

Read our SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey whitepapers for more business traveler and travel manager takes on AI and corporate travel.

The SAP Concur Global Business Traveler Survey was conducted byWakefield Researchbetween April 5-26, 2024, among 3,750 business travelers in 24 markets: U.S., Canada, UK, Germany, France, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Italy, Spain, ANZ (Australia, New Zealand), Middle East (UAE, Saudi Arabia), Japan, Korea, India, Mexico, Brazil, SEA (Singapore, Malaysia), South Africa, Portugal, Switzerland, and Austria.

The SAP Concur Global Travel Manager Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 5-26, 2024, 2024, among 600 travel managers, defined as those who direct or administer travel programs for businesses, across 6 markets: Germany, Canada, Japan, ANZ Countries (Australia and New Zealand), UK, and U.S. 

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