There’s been plenty of noise recently wrapped around “open bookings” and “travel eco-systems”. The fact is, open or rogue bookings for air, hotel and car rentals outside managed or unmanaged programs and so-called travel eco-systems have been around for decades. This is not new and the trend is very likely to continue. The question should be, if anything, what should organizations with business travelers and their service providers be doing?
Organizations with travelers have some basic decisions to make: Do we want a managed or unmanaged travel environment? Where should we book? Should we have a formal travel policy and if so, how do we develop one that makes sense for us? Traditionally, the best answers have been found with travel agencies, or a leading regional or large TMC (Travel Management Company). A popular alternative are the ITMCs (Internet Travel Management Companies) like Egencia, Orbitz or the former TBiz. Travelers may or may not book all trip elements through established channels particularly in today’s fast-paced, mobile, always connected, and 24/7 business climate. However, when travelers step outside channels, it does become difficult for organizations to track or report comprehensively on business travel booking patterns and actual costs.
Now, let’s consider the providers. These include the independent travel companies who work hard and strive to differentiate themselves. Unfortunately for them, they have become dependent on technology providers to stand out, and the technology companies themselves have consolidated to the point that agencies’ options are limited. Of course, there are also the direct-providers. These are the airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other travel service companies. They are also are fighting commoditization, along with rising costs, new channel development and disruptions to their strategies for attracting business.
So do you need an out-of-the box solution or travel eco-system? The simple answer for the both the organizations with travelers and the providers is, “No!” More choice, not less is what they need. This is what personalization and mobile travel functionality are all about.
Why is it then, organizations accept that they will have only imperfect visibility into their travel spend? Not in the least; it can be all there in the expense reporting system, if the system has the required capabilities. Expense reporting has the real data and never mind how it got there or where it got booked.
Beware of those providers who try to put you in a one-size fits all, single end-to-end solution. The leading and successful TMCs and ITMCs, as well as the service providers, airlines, hotels and car rental companies will want to continue to offer organizations choice on booking, and flexible and competitive pricing for services delivered.
Please, help keep the noise down on “open bookings” and travel-eco-systems. Let’s move ahead with a robust expense solution that will work with any travel agency, any credit card, any service provider and will deliver the support and pricing to fit your needs. Don’t get put into the box.
By Michael Jacques December 3rd, 2013