Early this fall Gant Travel Management will roll out one of the first open booking travel management programs created and operated by a TMC.
As yet unnamed, the Gant open booking product was created by sister company Cornerstone and is based on the Concur platform.
The PNR-centric system will track bookings made inside and outside the GDS framework, according to Gant president Patrick Linnihan. That could include travel booked and provided by suppliers or other third parties and discounted hotel rates for meeting attendees, as well as other out-of-policy travel.
Because Gant is focused on managing data and not on making bookings, the open booking platform will be based on a subscription fee or a per-incident fee, instead of the more familiar transaction fee, he said.
Dealing with reality
“This is the travel management tool that allows you to manage all of your travel – not just the percentage of bookings that are being made within your program,” Linnihan said, noting that every travel program has out-of-policy bookings. (A recent survey by the Global Business Travel Association found that about 25% of most business travel is outside policy.)
But Linnihan does not see open booking as a panacea, he said. It is a tool, just like travel policy constraints, negotiated contracts, preferred vendors, corporate card programs, etc. And no one tool fits all situations or all companies.
“None of these management tools exist in a vacuum inside the company. The tools you use and the ways you deploy those tools depend on your management goals and the culture you are working in.”
Not one size fits all
“Travel 2.0 is no more a one-size-fits-all solution than draconian policy enforcement. Whether Travel 2.0 works for any given company depends largely on corporate expectations and goals and culture,” Linnihan said.
“If you’re a company that hires the brightest and the most creative, Travel 2.0 can provide the flexibility that employees expect and support the retention levels that HR expects.
“If you’re a company that is heavy on control and command and treat travel as a commodity, you probably can’t go this route successfully.”
Yet even the most draconian of command and control companies can’t dictate the terms of every business trip.
For instance, what happens when a company’s vendor books and provides hotel and other arrangements for a sales meeting? Without some sort of access to out-of-program data channels, the TMC and travel manager will lose track of an employee on a business trip that was legitimately booked outside the program.
The most common out-of-program travel involves meetings, Linnihan said. Rates for meeting blocks are often better than negotiated corporate rates. Penalizing travelers who are demonstrably saving the company money is a bad move in terms of employee morale and retention.
Managing all travel
“This is about managing all of your travel in a way that supports your greater company strategy,” Linnihan said.
“Open booking gives you data coverage no matter where and how your travelers are booking and shopping. TMCs can now see all of the out-of-policy bookings they now miss. That makes it easier to match travel policy to corporate goals and support overall strategy.”