Travel professionals accept direct booking is here to stay, work to gain visibility into cost savings and risk management

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By Monica Sanchez, GBTA Foundation

A new study from the GBTA Foundation, in partnership with Concur, explores priorities and challenges corporate travel programs face today. As the travel industry evolves in response to mobile technology and employee direct-booking behavior, travel professionals are finding they need to modernize their travel programs not only to control costs, but also to increase overall travel and expense visibility.

Direct booking: Here to stay

When it comes to travel program effectiveness, travel professionals report direct booking as a primary challenge. Direct bookings are becoming increasingly popular given a growing preference among business travellers for a self-service approach to booking – not to mention the fact that traveller satisfaction with company-preferred booking tools has not always kept pace with supplier tools.

Increasingly, suppliers are now offering incentives to book direct, and mobile technology makes it easier for business travellers to connect with suppliers, as well.

Travel professionals are trying to bring together mobile technology and the corporate travel process to not only enhance the traveller experience, but also increase employee compliance. Travel professionals cannot fully achieve their top-level priorities of duty of care and cost savings, however, without addressing direct booking.

Implications of direct booking

Travel professionals agree the lack of visibility caused by direct booking has duty of care implications. The vast majority agree that in times of crisis, traditional corporate travel management tools aren’t able to locate travellers who have booked directly with suppliers.

travel professionals

Educating employees, who generally want to do the right thing, on proper direct booking techniques, will not only increase spending visibility, but will also help companies save on their bottom line. Some of these proper direct booking techniques include:

  • Booking through approved channels
  • Tracking spend

Unmanaged supplier direct booking can lead travellers to unknowingly ‘miss-out’ on negotiated rates and amenities, and ultimately pay higher prices.

Next steps: What is a travel professional to do?

Driven by the need to control invisible spending and adjust to new trends in traveller behavior, travel professionals are turning to technology to capture direct booking data. Some are making it easier for travellers to share their trip information, while others are using an automated data capture system, among other methods. Some also rely on expense reporting data—but because it is received after the trip—this approach causes serious duty of care implications.

Through implementing streamlined travel solutions that include mobile technology, travel professionals expect to improve the odds of receiving data back from direct booking and gain visibility into the big picture of employee travel behavior. However, they are still looking for the ability to capture detailed travel information including class, ticket number and seat assignment. These areas also need more data coverage:

  • Real-time visibility into spending
  • Automated expense reporting
  • Better integration among technology systems
  • Wider supplier reach for automated data capture programs

With rapid industry changes, travel professionals realize that being prepared for future change is more critical now than ever before. They agree that there are still obstacles to overcome with technology and risk management, but are confident the evolution of technology in these areas will continue to offer greater capabilities. They feel they are making strides in gaining valued data that can drive greater cost savings and implement more duty of care responsibilities.

Both travel professionals and travellers ultimately want what is best for their company—and while direct booking may pose some challenges—many opportunities exist, as well. It is possible for travel professionals to reach critical program priorities while also meeting traveller preferences, if the proper technology is implemented.

“The GBTA Foundation study strongly confirmed that nearly 40 per cent of managed frequent business travellers regularly shop and book directly with suppliers and OTAs in addition to the traditional OBT/TMC channel,” said Mike Koetting, Executive Vice President, Supplier and TMC Services for Concur. “This multi-channel behavior is a well-entrenched reality across every geography and every demographic that was studied. Companies that continue to limit the scope of their travel management program to the traditional channel have almost certainly lost visibility, savings, and control over spending in the non-traditional channels. Capturing and managing travel, no matter where it was purchased is no longer optional for a well-managed travel program.”

Methodology: This study used both a qualitative and quantitative approach. The qualitative side is based off of 11 in-depth interviews of travel managers in the United States and Europe, mostly from organizations with mature travel programs, conducted in June 2016. The quantitative side consisted of a supplemental survey completed by 84 U.S.-based travel managers fielded from July 7-12, 2016.

Read the Full Report: The study, Travel Programs: Challenges, Priorities and Implication, is available free of charge exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing [email protected].

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