Online booking tools

Online booking tools can simplify the booking process, saving both time and money when employed correctly. In the best-case scenario, it’s a win-win for both the traveler and the company.

Text: Lois Hoyal // FOTOS: iStock/shutterstock

The majority of corporate travel is now booked online, either directly with an airline or hotel or through an official corporate system known as an online booking tool (OBT). Reliable and efficient, OBTs aim to simplify the corporate travel booking process. They are specifically designed to meet a company’s needs in terms of compliance with corporate and legal policies, reporting, duty of care tracking, and preferred vendor usage.

OBTs have come a long way since they were first introduced for corporate travel in the 1990s. By the 2000s, OBTs had become firmly established for corporate travel booking thanks to their ability to shave off costs and booking time. In recent years, OBTs have ramped up online booking capabilities, effectively replacing travel agents as the standard approved booking channel for companies with managed travel programs.

Bringing in the benefits

One of the biggest plus points of OBTs is their ability to automate corporate travel policy. Thanks to being connected to a traveler profile system, OBTs firstly know everything relevant about a traveler, from their personal information to their frequent flier program memberships. This means travelers don’t have to enter personal and corporate information each time they book, saving on both time and convenience.

OBTs can sift out which policies to use for individual employees, tailoring which air, hotel, and car rental content is displayed by price or by a company’s preferred travel supplier. Sometimes this means imposing rate caps, depending on an employee’s level in the company.

The data gleaned via the booking process then enables a travel manager to comprehend traveler booking behavior and find out if cost thresholds are adequate and preferred suppliers conveniently located.

OBTs can also lower booking fees. Purchases made via an OBT tend to have lower transaction costs than those made with an agent. In addition, employees using OBTs tend to purchase less expensive flights and hotels than they would when speaking to an agent.

A centralized booking system allows for the type of detailed itinerary records that are necessary to track employees and stay in touch during a crisis situation. Lastly, the comprehensive data gathered via OBTs is helpful for accounting purposes, providing a complete record of travel spending.

Next generation

In this digitalization era, it’s important for OBTs to keep up with the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. As a result, leading players are busily honing their technology offerings.

Amadeus Cytric is investing in better search algorithms to display results that comply with a company’s travel policy while meeting traveler preferences. An AI virtual assistant is going to feature in its mobile app, which will help with booking recommendations, itinerary changes and rebooking. Meanwhile, Deem is upgrading its mobile app and expanding expense management integrations. It plans to partner with HRS, and the Amadeus global distribution system and with virtual payment provider Conferma. In addition, Egencia is adding air and hotel booking features that leverage AI.

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