Love it or hate it, open booking – a.k.a. Travel 2.0 – is here to stay. But that’s not necessarily bad news for managed travel, GBTA members learned this week.
“Travel 2.0 is going to happen,” Scott Gillespie, managing partner of the new data analytics firm tClara,asserted during an education session at GBTA Conference 2013 in San Diego.
Moreover, he said, open booking has advantages for travel managers, TMCs, airlines, hotels, travelers, travel budget managers and everyone else concerned with effective travel management. This was the consensus, Gillespie said, of a July conference hosted by the Managed Travel 2.0 Advisory Committee whose 18 members include travel buyers; TMCs; airline, hotel and car rental companies, and technology companies.
“Travelers can and should be allowed to book outside traditional channels. Data, traveler safety, travel policy, negotiated discounts, amenities, services – they can all be provided under current vendors and technology. In this view of the world, it doesn’t matter which channel a traveler books through.”
Nor is Travel 2.0 a capitulation to rogue travelers, Gillespie said.
Follow the travelers
Travel managers’ primary role is to capture travel data, manage travel spend and exercise a company’s duty of care. The best way to fulfill those roles is to go where travelers are. And for some travelers, that means going outside traditional channels.
Travel 2.0 gives the travel manager more and better tools to capture data from travel that is booked outside the standard channels, Gillespie said.
Travel 2.0 can be distilled into four key elements:
1. Travelers can shop anywhere.
2. Travelers can book any supplier so long as the supplier and product are safe.
3. Travelers can book through any channel so long as complete data are reported to the company quickly.
4. Travelers can book any product so long as it is within budget.
“Open booking doesn’t advocate turning the traveler loose to book anything, anywhere, any price,” Gillespie said.
“With open booking, it’s the budget manager who makes the final decisions. Putting the budget manager in charge cuts a lot of the noise around Travel 2.0. It does not compromise the ability of travel managers to manage spend and provide needed services to the company and to the traveler.”
Year of controversy
A year ago, at GBTA Conference 2012, Gillespie and Evan Konwiser, co-founder of Fairely, ignited months of debate by announcing the demise of what they called Travel 1.0, better known as traditional managed travel. (See Travel 2.0: Biz Travelers, Not Mandates, Lead the Way.)
They based their argument in the findings of a GBTA survey of managed versus unmanaged travel costs. The survey found that unmanaged travelers spent about a third less than managed travelers and were far more satisfied than their more closely managed colleagues. (For updated survey results, see sidebar.)
Gillespie and Konwiser proposed reducing the restrictions of travel policy to allow travelers more freedom to shop, book and buy outside the standard corporate or TMC channels.
The controversy over Travel 2.0 has been so furious that Concur recently changed the name of its dedicated open booking product suite from Concur Open Booking to Concur TripLink.
“We were arguably the company that gave voice to open booking, but open booking has been an emotionally loaded term in the past year,” Concur executive Robson Grieve told Travel Market Report this week.
“We hope that the product name change creates a less emotional, more useful discussion,” said Grieve, executive vice president of global marketing.
The reality, Grieve said, is that open booking has always been a part of managed travel. But it has usually been disguised and dismissed as rogue travel, leakage, out-of-policy or out-of-channel and similar terms.
What the verbal camouflage can’t hide is that a percentage of travelers never did and probably never will travel under policy rules.
Next time: New ways to think about managing travel