by WEX Travel
Open Booking, also called Travel 2.0, is the practice of allowing business travelers to make their own travel arrangements outside of their corporate booking channels. While most corporate travel policies have traditionally allowed for some out-of-channel bookings, widespread use of new consumer-friendly online booking tools have made it necessary for companies to reinvent their travel policies.
According to PhoCusWright’s U.S. Business Traveler: Managed, Unmanaged, and Rogue 2012 Report, 40-50% of employee travel is booked outside of corporate travel systems. Additionally, Carlson Wagonlit Travel reports that 40% of North American hotel bookings for managed business travelers are made outside of the preferred booking channels.
Technology at Travelers’ Fingertips
Technology has made it simple for suppliers to distribute their product directly to consumers online—and convenient for both business and leisure travelers to manage their travel without help from a travel agency. Hotels, for instance, now offer specials online and make them available through mobile applications. Business travelers are already using their smart devices to stay productive while on the road, so with access to wider content and lower prices at their fingertips, it’s easier than ever for them to take advantage of real-time deals or accommodate changes in travel plans, like a last-minute client meeting causing them to stay out of town another night.
Out-of-channel bookings can raise concerns for corporate travel managers who don’t have an effective way to account for travel expenses that occur outside of their company policy. They are also limited in their capacity to help traveling employees deal with customer service issues or maintain their duty of care.
Yet what the travel manager may lose in terms of control over the travel booking process, they make up for in enhanced data. The same technology that is making supplier sales and end-user transactions more convenient is also making it easier for companies to integrate open bookings into their existing systems and workflows. Suppliers are working with corporate clients to provide them with the information they need to ensure travel policy compliance on their end. Improving visibility into pricing also helps travel managers track and control spending and negotiate with suppliers.
Time will tell how quickly—or to what extent—organizations will adopt an open booking travel policy, but Travel 2.0 is more than a trend. As technology continues to shape business traveler preferences and needs, changes to corporate travel management policies and processes are bound to follow.