The Global Business Travel Association, an organization of more than 6,000 travel buyers and sellers, met in Denver last week for its annual expo.
I was a judge for the Business Traveller
Innovation Awards, charged with selecting one winner (among 13 contenders) for a
new product that offers the best solution to a problem faced by business
travellers. The following were my personal favourites:
Easily finding the most comfortable flight and a hotel that appeals to your personal
Innovation: Hipmunk.com (the overall
winner of the competition) is a unique meta-search site that displays flight
choices in a visual timeline and ranks them based on levels of “agony”, taking
into consideration flight duration, stopovers and availability of wi-fi. You
can choose hotels using a “heatmap” tool that displays hotels in proximity to attractions,
nightlife, food, shopping and vice (bars, casinos, adults-only venues).
You only need a car for a few hours — not an entire day.
Innovation: Taking a cue from
popular car sharing services like ZipCar
that target local residents, Hertz
On Demand offers travellers the option of renting a car
for just a few hours -- including gas, insurance, GPS and 180 free miles. You
book your car online and pick it up at the nearest location, drive it, then
return it to the same or another location.
Membership is free, there are no enrolment or annual fees, and prices
are reasonable — for example, you can rent a Fiat 500 in London for just £5 per hour; compact cars in
San Francisco go for $8 to $12 per hour. The service is currently available in
the US and Europe, but there are plans to expand worldwide.
are irritating and expensive fees for wi-fi when using multiple devices or collaborating
on group projects.
Innovation: The credit-card-sized
Intelligent Mobile Hotspot device from Novatel receives cellular
signals and re-broadcasts them as wi-fi connections for up to five devices — a
sort of personal hotspot. This is great for groups working on laptops, tablets
or other mobile devices in areas with cellular access, but without wi-fi. It’s
also a great way to avoid steep hotel wi-fi connection fees. At about $30, the
device is cheap, but monthly service plans (from US cellular companies Verizon
run about $60 per month. Outside the US, you can buy “pay as you go” plans from
providers like Virgin
Mobile for about $150.
Getting driving directions via your GPS device when you can’t get a cellular
Innovation: If you tend to
drive more than you fly, the Navigon
Mobile Navigator app for your smartphone is worth a
look. No need for a separate GPS unit in your car when you have this
“GPS-on-steroids” smartphone download ($30) that provides spoken directions, rerouting
around heavy traffic and weather info. But best of all, it can provide
directions in areas without a cellular signal because maps are stored on the
Difficulty finding a reputable car service in cities with which you are not
Innovation: Most business
travellers have no problem choosing a car service or cab to get from the
airport to the city, or across town for meetings in cities they frequent. But Limos.com helps find
reputable, pre-screened car services in unfamiliar
destinations worldwide and provides discounts, insurance and options for single
travellers or groups.
Chris McGinnis is
the business travel columnist for BBC Travel