By Daniel Touitou
The business travel industry is rushing to adopt online booking. Online booking has proven benefits in terms of cost, control and duty of care, but it is important to note that not all online transactions are the same––it very much depends on how and where you book.
An online transaction can mean many things. It can be a booking made through a mobile app or on the web, via metasearch engines, online travel agencies or booking tools. And because we perceive the direct online channel (e.g. leisure sites, airlines or hotel chains’ own websites) to be low cost, business travelers may be missing the real value of booking through a travel company.
Do-it-yourself rather than using a professional service provider may present other challenges. Home improvements are a good example. DIY can appear attractive to the enthusiastic amateur, offering a lower cost option in principle. However, the amateur’s lack of knowledge or expertise might result in the exact opposite. Here is a quick guide to their differences—and their advantages and disadvantages.
Corporate companies have arrangements with specific hotels chains because of a commercial partnership or duty of care criteria. The travel company can book for the travelers in these hotels, according to the corporate companies preferences, and will be able to offer them special benefits such as a lower rate or an upgrade.
- Time is money
You can find a hotel room at a good price using a metasearch engine or online travel agency but finding the best options and rates can also take a booker a lot more time. Business travelers making their own bookings could be wasting time that could have been better spent delivering their employer’s business strategy.
- A helping hand
In the real-world things don’t always go to plan. Travel itineraries can change, and a missed flight or travel disruption could mean that your traveler needs to rebook. This means you need access to offline travel company support such as the out-of-hours travel emergency service. They can re-arrange travel within minutes, without lengthy calls and queues.
The most cost-effective fare for a specific traveler is similarly not necessarily the cheapest. For example, someone who works in sales often has to change travel plans so a flexible ticket might be the sensible choice. Finding the right fare is what travel consultants are trained to do.
A high online adoption rate is important but offline support is vital.
- Policy compliance keeps the cost under control
Every company wants compliance to its policy to save costs. Your company should provide a system that enables travelers to book the way they want while adhering to company policy. This is near enough impossible if travelers book on different online sites.
The back-office paperwork also becomes an issue if you book through several channels. Having to manually fill out and file expense and approval forms takes time, resource and patience…as well as needing a fairly flexible finance team! A travel company that automatically collects data and compiles reports in the right format is far easier than a collection of manual spreadsheets.
- Negotiating the cost down
Traveler satisfaction is important, but your company needs to ensure that it maximizes value from its travel spend. Don’t just focus on one rate. Consider how to leverage your total spend volume to get good deals.
You may be purchasing a lot of room nights per year with one hotel chain but if you are doing this via a cocktail of online travel agent, the chain’s own website and hotel booking agencies, this won’t show in the consolidated data. Without that, you will be unable to leverage the total spend volume to gain a favorable rate. If all bookings are done in one place with a business travel company, your Account Manager will have more data available and thus be able to negotiate better rates for you.
Having all the information in one place also allows you to practice corporate social responsibility by tracking your travelers. You will then be able to protect your travelers and get them rebooked and repatriated in case of a travel emergency
Before rushing headlong to get everyone booking online, just ask yourself about the true costs of doing it yourself.
NGT – Next Generation Travel is providing all those services.
Our pledge is to ensure every trip is as successful, rewarding and pleasant as possible. Whether you live on the road or travel for business infrequently, we’re there to help every step of the way.
Daniel Touitou is the founder & CEO of Next Generation Travel, a travel agency specializing in business travel, conferences, seminars, and events all over the world.