Out of Channel Bookings Create Corporate Travel Chaos

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.

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.

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:

  1. There is one dominant player in the OBT space today
  2. Most travelers are frustrated with their booking tool
  3. Most travelers (at times) book out of channel
  4. 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:

  1. Travel Managers are overwhelmingly concerned about suppler direct initiatives
  2. Travel Managers are concerned with the concept of Open Booking
  3. 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 your 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 wouldn’t want or need to book outside it?

We think so, and if you do as well go to www.deem.com, and click on the Try Deem button, because we’re here to fix the bad booking tool problem without creating a flood of problems for you.