The Global Business Travel Association and Concur just released a report, How Traveller Booking Behaviour Impacts Safety, that reviews business traveler booking behavior in Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
Here’s a description of the report:
All companies have a moral and legal responsibility for the safety of their employees. “Duty of care” not only applies at the workplace, but also when employees work from a remote location or travel for business. This study examines duty of care from the business traveller’s perspective and focuses on:
1. Booking data and program visibility: Virtually every risk management function that companies perform depends to some extent on booking data. What happens when travelers book outside of their company’s preferred channels? How does their company capture data from these bookings?
2. Risk services: How often do companies provide travelers with various risk services such as an emergency assistance hotline, traveller training, travel advisories, and SMS (text) communication?
The report says that seven out of 10 travelers booked at least one business trip directly with a supplier or through an online travel agent like Expedia or Booking.com – even though they had access to a corporate online booking tool.
Think about that. Seven out of ten. I don’t know about you, but in the world of managed travel that sounds like a pretty bad case of Travelers gone rogue if you ask me.
According to the report even where travelers have access to an online booking system it seems they are largely allowed to use alternative methods like booking directly with a supplier or by using and online travel agency, like Expedia.com or Booking.com.
Two-in-three European business travelers with travel policies book their travel through an alternate channel, particularly if they have a more permissive corporate travel policy. This poses problems for companies as they try to track travelers and keep them safe.
“Booking data continues to play a critical role in traveler safety and travelers also have high expectations of their organizations when it comes to their safety,” Jessica Collison, Global Business Travel Association’s director of research told Skift in an interview. “As many travelers continue to book outside of corporate tools through alternative channels, the lack of visibility this creates has critical implications for both travel spend and the ability to meet duty of care responsibilities.”
Why are business travelers choosing to book using their personal preferences instead of based on company policy and mandates? The research shows that 52 percent used online travel agencies for better prices, and 49 percent were looking for better selection of travel content. When it came to booking directly, travelers were hunting for better prices and content (44 percent each) while a similar number were chasing their loyalty rewards (39 percent).
The industry doesn’t formally publish corporate online booking tool (OBT) market share data, but a Phocuswright study from a couple years back was generally accepted as an accurate reflection of the US market. While the data is from 2015, I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much. It shows the breakdown of market share by online booking tool – with a clear marker share leader serving almost 70 percent of the corporations that participated in the survey.
Another recently published BTN survey showed the top frustrations for business travelers, and low and behold, almost half the respondents don’t like their OBT experience.
So, if we extrapolate based on these studies, it’s logical to assume four things:
There is one dominant player in the OBT space today
Most travelers are frustrated with their booking tool
Most travelers (at times) book out of channel
Frustration with their OBT is a likely cause for this out of booking behavior
Allowing and/or promoting out of channel booking behavior is one way to address the frustrating OBT experience – but it creates another batch of problems for travel managers and their program controls. I say that with some certainty based on another research study, the results of which are below.
Open Booking is not a solution.
In a 2015 Phocuswright study, corporations voted against Open Booking, sighting diminished cost containment, adherence to company policy, and negotiating leverage. They see very little value in allowing their travelers to book outside their program – with good reason. No company wants to miss their preferred rates or risk losing track of a traveler when they’re on the road. Booking in channel is always better – for everyone.
This in-channel preference was further validated by a recent Business Travel News study that had 88% of travel managers expressing concern about supplier direct initiatives.
So if we do another extrapolation, it is logical to conclude the following:
Travel Managers are overwhelmingly concerned about suppler direct initiatives
Travel Managers are concerned with the concept of Open Booking
Facilitating and/or encouraging Open Booking is tantamount to encouraging behavior that concerns most travel managers
Untracked traveler chaos.
At the end of the day this leaves you – the travel manager – with a bundle of unsolved problems:
How much did my travelers spend on that airfare or hotel?
Was it the best rate available?
Did they use a preferred supplier?
Will I fulfill my supplier negotiated contract and market share requirements?
Where are my travelers when they’re on the road?
How can I veto a trip that violates policy before the traveler leaves home?
These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself if you allow your travelers to book outside your online booking tool. It seems counterintuitive to a managed program and clearly has many concerned, so my final question to you is, wouldn’t it make more sense to just fix the booking tool experience so travelers don’t want or need to book outside it?
We think so, and if you do as well, fill in our Request a Demo button, because we’re here to fix the bad booking tool problem without creating a flood of problems for you.