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Posted February 15, 2017

corporate travel booking

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Open booking policies are far from the norm for corporate travel policies. While most companies allow for some off-channel booking, they prefer travelers to schedule their flights or stays with preferred suppliers using their corporate travel management or booking system. But it’s getting so much easier for travelers to book directly with suppliers—via websites or mobile apps—and it’s raising some red flags for travel managers with a keen eye on duty of care and budget issues.

Brush up on some of the terminology and trends in Travel 2.0: The Basics of Open Booking.

Multi-Channel Bookings Continue

New evidence suggests that corporate travelers will continue visiting supplier websites as well as off-channel online travel agency (OTA) sites to book their trips—at least some of the time. GBTA Foundation’s recent study shows that across every geography and every demographic, nearly 40% of managed frequent business travelers regularly shop and book directly with suppliers and OTAs in addition to the traditional, company-provided channel.

Findings also reveal that that companies that continue to limit the scope of their travel management program—that is, trying to keep employees booking through the traditional channel by not accommodating alternative booking methods—risk losing visibility, savings and control over spending in the non-traditional channels.

It might help travel managers who are still skeptical about incorporating alternative booking methods into their travel policies to consider these two main trends:

  • Business Travelers Prefer the Self-Service Approach to Booking. Consumers today opt for convenience, time-savings and value—and they can easily find it outside of internal channels. Another GBTA Foundation study about the digital business traveler found 78% of US business travelers would rather use self-service tools to plan their trips, especially if their corporate travel booking tools are behind-the-times and don’t offer the same user-friendly functionality and interface they’re finding elsewhere. Read 3 Hot Trends in Business Travel for more details.
  • Suppliers Reward Guests for Booking-Direct.
    Aside from offering (potentially) easier to use online and mobile tools to facilitate bookings, industry suppliers are driving traffic via special incentives. Business travelers toting loyalty cards or who participate in brands’ preferred customer programs are being treated to special perks for booking directly. These include lower rates and special amenities they may not have access to any other way.

Explore more in What’s New in Corporate Business Traveler Booking?

Accommodating Change

When business travelers book out-of-channel—and there isn’t an effective process in place to track their bookings— their travel managers lose control. Not only is booking data is important for travel program development and budgeting, but it helps protect employees while they’re on the road. If a traveler invisibly books out of channel, travel managers may not be able to reach an employee in a time of crisis.

This is why more companies are investing in solutions that help manage direct bookings. By enabling the capture and systems integration of off-channel booking information, these tools give travel managers what they need to understand their employees’ preferences, spend, and all-important whereabouts.

Yet as expressed on GTBA’s blog, there’s opportunity for even more to be delivered via next-generation technology tools. These include details into class, ticket number and seat assignment, as well as real-time visibility into spending, automated expense reporting, better integration among technology systems, and wider supplier reach for automated data capture programs.

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