Tools to Help Manage Travel in Open Booking Eraby Fred Gebhart /
Despite the growth of open booking, Carlson Wagonlit Travel isn’t giving up on the idea of travel policy compliance. Not completely.
But in addition to urging travel managers to cajole, educate and plead with rogue travelers to stay within policy, the TMC giant is also pointing client companies toward online tools that help them accomplish most, if not all, of the goals of managed travel – even as travelers book outside policy.
Here’s a look at a few tools that can help companies manage travel in a world where more and more travelers are booking outside policy or approved channels.
Online booking tools
The latest online booking tools provide a user experience closer to leisure travel than the typical TMC or corporate tool.
KDS Neo, for example, offers door-to-door booking from any device, displays the total time and cost of the trip, and shows alternatives including cheapest, greenest, fastest and policy-compliant. Regional coverage varies by supplier, CWT cautioned, but combining this kind of online booking tool with an itinerary tracking app can yield rich data on travel spend.
Itinerary management apps let travelers share itinerary details with travel managers as well as family, friends and anyone else on the traveler’s contact list.
CWT recommends its own app, CWT To Go, but Concur and other providers have similar products. About 5% of itinerary formats are incompatible with itinerary management apps, CWT warns.
Booking tracking technology like KDS Maverick is a browser add-on that detects traveler attempts to book at a public website.
A pop-up window reminds the would-be errant booker to get back in the protected policy environment. If the traveler uses the public booking engine anyway, Maverick captures the booking data and forwards it to the travel manager.
The technology does not yet work on mobile devices and not every company (or traveler) will be comfortable with this level of spyware.
Shop anywhere apps
Shop anywhere and book TMC apps give travelers the flexibility of shopping anywhere to compare prices and restrictions, then booking through the TMC engine.
CWT likes BookiIt, by Short’s Travel Management. Travelers give BookIt their trip details, which checks corporate policy and applicable negotiated fares to find – and recommend –cheaper deals. Whether the corporate booking tool or the public website has the better deal, the travel manager gets the booking data. The downside: BookIt only works with flights for now.
Alternate booking platforms
Alternative booking platforms like Concur Open Booking give travelers the flexibility of booking directly with suppliers while accessing negotiated rates and personal loyalty program points.
Concur adds itinerary management (TripIt) as well as integrated data reporting and expense management. But there is no single point of contact for service except the TMC and Open Booking could encourage more out-of-policy booking.
Corporate culture dictates
Whether travel managers lean on compliance or third party apps to capture rogue booking data, or both, depends largely on corporate culture, Moran said.
Command and control style companies probably can crack the compliance whip and bring rogue travelers back into the fold. But companies with a more relaxed culture may have to bend the compliance rules.
“It is better to capture rogue travelers at the front end and guide them back into compliance,” said David Moran, CWT’s executive vice president of enterprise strategy and marketing. “But capturing their data on the back end is better than losing them altogether.
“You lose a level of flexibility when your travelers book through open channels, but you don’t necessarily have to lose your travelers completely.”
CWT white paper
CWT laid out the challenges of managed travel in a recent report, “Where Now for Managed Travel? Rogue Spend, New Booking Technologies and the Future of Business Travel Programs.”
The report cites multiple studies showing that when travelers book within policy, through TMC channels, companies pay lower airfares overall. (See A Prescription for Open Booking)
The same report found that about two-thirds of rogue travelers are shopping, booking and buying outside policy because it is more convenient. They want a more intuitive, consumer-like experience.
And while corporate portals and TMC booking engines are improving, no one has yet created a business travel booking tool that combines policy compliance and the ease of use that business travelers have come to expect from Amazon, Google, eBay and any number of leisure travel booking tools.
“We can’t deny that travelers want more flexibility,” Moran told Travel Market Report. “We have to work with our channel partners to build a better mousetrap. Everybody is trying to get there.”