Comment: The benefits of corporate booking tools

Guy Snelgar of the Advantage Travel Partnership explains the what, why and how of implementing a CBT

Travel management companies (TMCs) are doubling down on technology investments and reimagining their services in an increasingly digitalised landscape.

The business travel world is advancing and optimising efficiency and streamlining processes is paramount.

The emergence of corporate booking tools (CBTs) has been revolutionary in enhancing companies’ travel management processes. The use of CBTs is on the rise, but their implementation needs to be carefully managed.

So, what are corporate booking tools? They are online tools which enable business travellers to book cost-effective flights and hotels. They can also offer personalised travel assistance based on previous bookings and preferences.

CBTs can be programmed based on a firm’s travel and expenses policies, so they can make booking travel a seamless process from pre-trip approval to compliance.

Ultimately, they empower organisations to navigate the complexities of business travel. Studies have shown that companies using these tools also see a reduction in travel expenditure.

Crucially, both travel managers and travellers benefit from these tools because these powerful technologies can adapt to changing circumstances, secure and promote the best and most cost-effective travel options and help ensure the safety and comfort of employees on the move.

As the range of sources for travel content has grown beyond the traditional global distribution system (GDS) – to include hotel bed banks, rail operators and airlines distributing via NDC channels and online – technology has had to evolve to ensure all this content is bookable through a single tool, along with ancillaries such as taxis, transfers, airport parking and even restaurant reservations.

Alongside delivering a seamless booking experience, CBTs must also provide consistent and accurate financial controls so every trip can be tracked along with its budget and billing information, policy compliance and CO2 emissions.

We are all familiar with unforeseen events disrupting travel. These tools, along with supporting technology, can locate, alert and support employees more effectively than the average person can, transforming what companies can offer employees in terms of their wellbeing when travelling, whilst boosting their efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Implementation requires careful planning

Corporate booking tools offer numerous benefits to businesses seeking to streamline management processes and save on costs. However, they do also come with risks.

Companies looking to introduce and implement new tools can face challenges integrating these with existing systems if the process is not managed properly.

There is also scope for technical glitches or downtime which can disrupt travel plans. Data security is also a concern as centralised travel data could be a target for cyberattacks.

When it comes to implementing organisational change, a certain reluctance to do things in a new way is inevitable. This might be because previous, poorly managed implementations have had long-term, residual impacts.

There is often also the mentality that “We’ve tried this before and it didn’t work”, and implementing CBTs is no different. Employees might like their established booking habits or perceive complexities about a tool which makes it harder to encourage them to use it effectively.

Successful implementation often relies on careful planning and experienced support, which is why helping organisations to get the best from these tools has become a key element of a TMC’s service.

Travellers booked through corporate booking tools are just as closely supported, their trips just as effectively controlled and reported on as bookings made over the phone or by email. In practice, these tools usually work alongside the option of contacting a TMC’s experienced travel consultants for more complex trips.

With all this in mind, Advantage hosted a technology steering group earlier this year to discuss the pros and cons of these tools and how to assess and implement them. We invited four leading suppliers to showcase their current solutions.

We found that, in general, these tools have a positive impact on companies which choose to use them, but that it is crucial to have a roadmap for implementing these tools and to be supported in that process.

Following the steering group session, we published our inaugural ‘Corporate Booking Tool Showcase’ report highlighting the importance of corporate booking tools and how they can be used to streamline the travel management process.

Before companies start using the first tool they come across, they should apply a detailed assessment methodology to identify the best fit for their organisation.

For these tools to work best, companies need to understand the stages involved and a typical timeframe for implementation, from deciding which tool to use and educating employees to use it to identifying areas for improvement.

Using an assessment methodology can bring a systematic approach to identifying a corporate booking tool which is a good fit. It can help pinpoint which tool aligns with a company’s goals and supports its approach.

The importance of having a road map for the planning and implementation of a corporate booking tool and follow-up on its use can’t be understated. But that time and effort can result in real improvements to a corporate travel programme in terms of cost, efficiency and traveller wellbeing.

Guy Snelgar is global business travel director at the Advantage Travel Partnership

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