A Guide to Online Booking Tools for Corporate Travel

What are Online Booking Tools for Corporate Travel? 

Across industry verticals, corporate travel departments are increasingly adopting online travel booking tools in an effort to increase the efficiency of their travel programs while driving down costs. 

Corporate online booking tools have transformed the way that small, medium and enterprise organizations book and manage travel. A white paper authored by world-leading GDS service provider Amadeus identified that 66% of organizations had adopted a self-booking tool for corporate travel, and that these tools were already offering the lowest transaction costs for corporate travel arrangements. More recently, a global survey of travel buyers conducted by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) in March of 2019 found that 92% of travel managers had adopted online booking tools as a means of streamlining the process of arranging flights and accommodation for corporate travelers, and 40% agreed on the importance of having all booking channels integrated into a single platform.

These figures highlight the growing trend towards adoption of online booking tools for corporate travel, but what exactly are these online booking tools, and how do they help organizations streamline processes and reduce travel management costs?

Corporate booking tools (CBTs), sometimes abbreviated as "OBTs" for "Online Booking Tools" are web-based software applications that cater to organizations who wish to enhance their corporate travel management processes. CBTs can deliver value and benefits for organizations of all sizes, and each platform has its own distinguishing set of features that drive cost savings, convenience and ease-of-use for corporate travelers and the travel departments that manage and assist them.

The defining features and value drivers of CBTs can be summarized as follows:

  • Web-based platform that sources travel inventory from a variety of sources, leveraging integrations with Global Distribution System (GDS) and other vendors 

  • Mobile applications for Android and iOS, making it easier for travelers to manage bookings from a mobile device

  • Travel policy management features for travel managers, with the capability to filter out non-compliant travel options and encourage more in-policy bookings

  • Streamlined expense reporting and accounting integrations that reduce the cost of managing variable travel expenses like meals and entertainment

Online travel booking tools are a natural successor to online travel agencies (OTAs), most of which are operated by Expedia (Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, Trivago) or the Priceline group (Agoda.com, Booking.com, Kayak). In the past, hotels and airlines relied on these agencies to drive sales and gave them access to their internal reservation systems so the agencies could handle travel arrangements based on the most current data. 

With online travel booking tools, corporations are able to "cut out the middleman" from their travel booking processes, gain direct access to the global distribution system for airfare and hotel bookings, and avoid the millions in intermediary fees that OTAs collect from their customers each year. 

Online Booking Tools for Your Organization 

Depending on the size of your organization, there may be one person, several people or an entire department whose activities involve corporate travel. 

In a small business, a single travel manager could be responsible for setting travel strategy, managing policies and compliance, coordinating bookings and modifications and managing travel expenses and reimbursements. In enterprise organizations, these responsibilities may be shared by team members in several roles - a CFO manages high-level strategy and process definition, a procurement manager selects vendors and negotiates for rates, and a travel manager creates policy, oversees compliance, and manages a team of people that coordinate expenses and bookings. 

Regardless of the size of your team, corporate online booking tools can have a transformative effect for every role that touches the corporate travel process. CFOs, procurement managers, travel managers and travelers themselves can all do more and achieve more with the help of online travel booking.

CFOs

Corporate Financial Officers (CFOs) are responsible for all financial operations of their organizations, including financial reporting, accounting and financial decision-making. CFOs set travel procurement strategy to bolster the performance of the organization's travel department, exert control over spending and budgets to help drive down travel costs and are ultimately accountable for the cost-efficiency of the organization's travel program. 

At the same time, CFOs are responsible for financial management of each area of the business - not just the travel program. While a CFO may set strategy for corporate travel, they depend on the procurement managers, travel manager and travel department staff to implement the appropriate tools and execute on initiatives to achieve cost reduction targets and drive efficiency. 

Online travel management tools are making it easier than ever for CFOs to meet their key performance objectives for business travel management. With a corporate travel booking tool like Deem Workfource, CFOs can:

  • Streamline their oversight of the travel management process and reduce administrative costs

  • Automate aspects of travel policy compliance, helping to drive down costs and meet efficiency targets

  • Reduce the number of ad hoc requests from travelers while providing more options for booking and modifications in compliance with company travel policy

  • Save time on travel management, enabling them to focus on more value-added areas of financial management

Procurement Managers

Corporate procurement managers are responsible for directing the organization's travel purchasing, including the selection and management of vendors that meet the needs of the organization and its customers. The best procurement managers deliver value by securing the best rates for the most common types of travel expenses: airfare, hotel & accommodations, and ground transportation.

While procurement managers focus on realizing cost savings through market analysis and negotiations, they can often face push-back from other areas of the business when implementing these measures. While procurement managers typically follow a balanced approach to vendor selection, a travel manager might prefer a vendor with a more streamlined booking process and sales executives may want to book a nicer hotel for entertaining prospective customers. Many procurement managers are under constant pressure from their CFO to reduce the average nightly lodging costs for travelers, even if it means sacrificing the quality and perks that keep travelers happy and motivated while on the road.

An online business travel booking tool can significantly streamline the travel procurement process for business procurement managers who:

  • Cater to diverse groups of travelers with varied expectations for accommodations and service

  • Want consistent access to preferred rates and best available deals from a variety of vendors

  • Wish to reduce administrative burden and automate more aspects of the travel procurement process

  • Need to spend less time shopping for deals 

Travel Managers

Travel managers play an important role in the success and oversight of corporate travel programs. Travel managers own some of the most important cost-controlling processes, including the establishment and maintenance of corporate travel policy, oversight and approval of expenses and reimbursements, making and managing travel policy exceptions and handling bookings and modifications for corporate travelers.

Travel management is a demanding profession because of the bi-directional pressures that travel managers face in their everyday job performance. Travel management falls under the purview of CFOs and procurement managers in large corporations, so there is a top-down pressure to find efficiencies and reduce costs. At the same time, corporate travelers expect to be presented with travel and accommodations that meet their needs in the field when it comes to quality and service. 

In the world of hospitality, superior quality and service usually comes with a higher price tag, but there could be mitigating advantages such as elevated traveler satisfaction that ultimately justify the added expense. Traveling agents and sales executives may have their own preferences for hotels and accommodations that fall outside of what the travel policy would normally allow. Travel managers are in a perpetual balancing act that requires them to deliver the travel experience that customers desire while meeting cost and efficiency targets set by CFOs and procurement.

Through the use of corporate online booking tools, travel managers can address some of the biggest recurring challenges associated with their role, including:

  • Automating compliance with the corporate travel policy while providing more options for travelers

  • Funneling travelers to preferred vendors, enabling procurement managers to negotiate for better rates based on high booking volumes with selected partners

  • Managing risk and fulfill duty-of-care obligations by monitoring the activities and location of corporate travelers in the field

  • Streamlining the expense reporting and reimbursement process and leveraging automation to reduce manual labor and save time

  • Enforcing cost-saving policy elements, such as booking in advance for cheaper rates and restricting spending to pre-approved items or categories

  • Streamlining the reporting process for travel expenses and making it easier to demonstrate KPI success and goal attainment to procurement managers and CFOs

  • Realizing direct and indirect cost savings in spite of increasing hotel and airfare costs globally

Corporate Travelers

Travelers are the customers of your organization's corporate travel department. They depend on your travel department, procurement manager and CFO to deliver options for travel booking and accommodations that enhance the travel experience, provide flexibility and enable success. Corporate travelers include consultants, sales agents and executives, retail purchasing professionals, event coordinators, travel nurses, construction managers and executives, and many other roles - they are as diverse as the industries that employ them, and so too their needs and expectations for corporate travel.

Corporate travelers must operate within the boundaries and constraints set by corporate travel managers when it comes to booking travel and reporting expenses for reimbursement - however, travelers will look for loopholes in policy or book their travel itinerary independently to take advantage of frequent flyer programs or stay with their preferred vendors. Ultimately, corporate travelers value a travel management process that offers flexible travel options, exceptional ease-of-use, and a streamlined expense reporting process - features that let them book the airfare and accommodations they want and keep their focus on performing their role effectively in the field.

With corporate online booking tools, travelers can take advantage of robust features that are specifically designed to drive traveler satisfaction. These include:

  • Message alerts that provide travelers with the most current information and travel advisories that could affect their trip planning and itinerary

  • Mobile applications that make it easy for corporate travelers to create or modify bookings while on the go

  • Automated compliance with travel policy that reduces back-and-forth conversations with travel managers and enables rapid changes to travel plans with pre-approved booking options

  • Best available rates at preferred vendors, helping travelers rack up rewards from their preferred frequent flyer program while contributing to booking volume at preferred vendors

Benefits of Online Booking Tools

Corporate travel booking tools are a win-win proposition for nearly all organizations - they help travel and procurement managers and their CFOs achieve performance objectives for corporate travel management, while delivering features that improve the experience for travelers and drive higher rates of compliance and satisfaction.

Benefits for Travelers

  • Conveniently book airfare, ground transportation and hotel reservations from anywhere in the world using a computer or mobile device

  • Pre-approval for compliant travel bookings eliminates the need for tedious back-and-forth with travel department and promotes travel policy compliance

  • Travelers enjoy the broadest selection of vendors from across the world for airfares, hotels and ground transport, making it easier to book with preferred vendors while staying in-policy

Benefits for CFOs and Management

  • Reduced administrative costs and burden with high-tech integrations and automated features

  • Eliminate OTA mark-ups on airfare and hotels to achieve direct cost savings

  • Maintain and elevate visibility and transparency of travel expenses and bookings to enable accurate KPI management and financial reporting

  • Increase booking volume through centralized channel to support vendor negotiations

Want to learn more about the benefits of online booking tools for corporate travel? Visit our comprehensive fact pages and select Deem Work Fource to discover the features that can help your organization save on travel.

How Can Deem Help?

Deem Work Fource is a collection of cloud-based corporate travel applications that helps organizations of all sizes deliver exceptional service for travelers while increasing efficiency and reducing costs on airfare, hotels, accommodations, ground transportation and administration.

Deem's extensive integrations with GDS service companies, Google's robust ITA platform and a tremendous list of global partners help travelers access and book the best rates from leading vendors around the world. Combined with ease-of-use features and automated compliance, Deem Work Fource is a simple travel management solution for CFOs, procurement managers, travel managers and corporate travelers who are ready to benefit from streamlined compliance, convenient bookings and time-saving features that help you do more with less.

Are you ready to transform your travel management with Deem? Request a Demo of our fast, friendly and customizable platform today.