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Travelers and travel managers have
differing priorities and perspectives regarding corporate online booking tools,
according to a recent research report from Carlson Wagonlit Travel's CWT Travel
Management Institute. Reconciling those differences and better addressing
traveler needs can help organizations improve online booking adoption, thereby
boosting policy compliance and realizing cost savings, the report suggested.
Conducted between September 2010 and April 2011, CWT's research included
surveys of 204 travel managers from around the world and 2,439 travelers and travel arrangers from 15 unidentified companies.
On average, according to travel manager respondents from companies that have
implemented online booking tools, about 52 percent of all transactions are
In comparing travel manager and
traveler responses, CWT concluded that "travel
managers are more enthusiastic than travelers about the benefits of online
booking." For example, when asked if the benefits of online booking tools
outweigh the drawbacks, 65 percent of travel managers replied "yes, by
far" or "yes, somewhat." For travelers, the number was 52
Travel managers as a group placed
at the top of a list of online booking "benefits" the notion that
online tools are "more appropriate for simple bookings," which earned
an aggregate score of 8.8 on a scale of 1 (completely disagree) to 10
(completely agree). Travelers on average also ranked that as the top benefit,
with an aggregate score of 7.2.
From there, some differences are
evident. For example, travel managers ranked second (with a score of 7.3) the
idea that online booking "generally helps travelers book cheaper
fares/rates." Travelers on average gave that a score of 5.5, the
second-lowest of the eight items examined. At the bottom of the travel manager
list was "reduces accessible content," with a 5.1 score. For
travelers, the lowest score, 4.5, came in for "forces travelers to book
earlier in advance."
Meanwhile, based on its analysis of
nearly 270,000 worldwide bookings between January 2010 and May 2011, CWT
determined that 78 percent of travelers expressed "high satisfaction"
with online bookings while 87 percent did so for offline bookings. At the same,
10 percent expressed "high dissatisfaction" with online bookings
versus 6 percent that did so for offline bookings.
These findings were in line across
all regions, according to CWT, "underlining that progress can still be
From the travel manager
perspective, the booking tool feature that garnered the highest satisfaction
score was "compliance with travel policy," at 6.6 on an ascending
scale of 1 to 10. It was followed by "accuracy of proposed rates"
(6.2) and "ability to steer travelers toward preferred suppliers"
(6.0). Travel managers were least satisfied with the degree to which online
booking tools satisfy their travelers, as "traveler satisfaction"
collected a 5.2 average score.
OBT Adoption Tips
The research also reinforced
several common observations on online booking, notably that it can generate
savings. According to its survey of travel managers, CWT found that companies
booking online on average shave 7 percent from their average ticket price when
compared with offline bookings. A "key reason," according to the
report, is the well-documented concept of visual guilt, whereby travelers feel
compelled to choose cheaper fares when they are presented.
But CWT pointed to reasons why
online booking may produce less-than-optimal savings results, particularly when
self-booked transactions require manual intervention. To combat those
occurrences, the TMC noted that corporations "can switch off the OBT's
'add comment' function, which is often used unnecessarily," and require
travelers to update their profiles.
"The main reasons for
automation failure," according to the report, "are incomplete or
outdated credit card information, or missing passport information, such as full
name, gender and country of passport issuance," which is required in
several countries. "Billing issues that call for manual intervention, such
as hotel bill-back (where the travel management company pays upfront and
invoices the customer), can be avoided by requiring travelers to use their
corporate payment cards when making a reservation," CWT continued. "Companies
can also dilute the benefits of OBTs if, for example, the 'repeat trip' feature
on OBTs prevents travelers from obtaining the lowest available fare with an
alternative supplier at the time of booking."
• According to CWT data
encompassing 70 million transactions, Australia leads the way in average online
booking rate with 44 percent of all transactions, followed by the United States
(41 percent) and Canada (37 percent). CWT noted that those countries "have
a high proportion of domestic travel and many simple, point-to-point bookings."
Spain (14 percent), Sweden (17 percent) and the United Kingdom (17 percent)
were at the bottom of the list of countries included in CWT's report.
• CWT's data also showed that the
electronics industry has the highest online booking penetration at 61 percent
of all transactions, followed by agriculture (54 percent) and hospitality (53
percent). The government/public sector category ranked last at 17 percent, half
the overall average. The variations, CWT explained, relate to corporate
culture, Internet usage and "the economic context."
• The report states that
"companies are fairly evenly divided in their use of direct agreements
with OBT suppliers or reseller agreements. Direct deals are slightly more
common, especially among larger companies, but the proportion of reseller
agreements is growing." According to CWT, "price" was among the
top three benefits cited by clients using both direct and reseller agreements.
It added that "small to medium companies will almost certainly obtain
better pricing deals thanks to the TMC's negotiations on behalf of all
clients." Other benefits of reseller deals via a TMC, CWT said, include
consulting, site administration, configuration of tools to include preferred
suppliers, local language support and easier geographic expansion. Arguments
favoring direct agreements include "fully negotiable licensing, hosting
and transaction fees" and "control of the relationship."
• CWT reported that "more than
90 percent" of its global clients use multiple OBTs—perhaps through a
best-in-region approach—"despite the higher costs."
suggested that "to make the most of mobile services," companies may
consider available mobile applications as part of their selection of an online
booking tool. (Meanwhile, the surveys showed that travelers on aggregate ranked
itinerary information as the most important mobile service, followed by flight
status updates. Travel managers ranked at the top of their list electronic
boarding passes, which for travelers was a close third. Both sets of
respondents placed the least amount of importance on tourist information.)
travel management company wrote that "web-based expense management
solutions are increasingly bundled with online booking tools and corporate
payment cards, providing a single interface for all expense management needs."
According to the research, 19 percent of surveyed travel managers indicated
their organizations' expense management system and online booking tool
"are combined." The majority use either an expense system that is
part of "a broader enterprise resource planning tool" (38 percent) or
an independent tool (32 percent).
• For profile management systems, 9
percent of surveyed CWT clients use an "ongoing human resources feed into
online booking tool." The rest use processes and systems not dependent on