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When Business Travelers Book Direct, How Should You Respond?

By / Jan 3, 2017

A new report from the Global Business Travel Association Foundation argues that corporate travel management systems have to adapt to business travelers who book direct despite being discouraged from doing so.

Despite the strides that have been made toward working in a corporate-expensing infrastructure, it’s still harder than hopping onto Expedia and just booking a room.

And for organizations that rely on lots of travel, that can create major cost concerns. New research on the topic from the Global Business Travel Association Foundation (GBTA Foundation) and Concur ultimately found that travel pros view direct booking as a fact of life, especially since hotels and airlines are offering significant benefits for doing so.

Part of the issue is that employees often don’t understand the benefits of booking through a company tool, which leads to outliers.

“Travel professionals are trying to bring together mobile technology and the corporate travel process to not only enhance the traveler experience, but also increase employee compliance,” a blog post highlighting the report stated. “Travel professionals cannot fully achieve their top-level priorities of duty of care and cost savings, however, without addressing direct booking.”

Monica Sanchez, the GBTA Foundation’s director of research, says an element of risk naturally comes with those who work outside of the system. In the case of an emergency, employees can be hard to track if they have booked rooms on their own.

According to the new research, Travel Programs: Challenges, Priorities and Implication, 68 percent of respondents said they agreed that it was hard to track employees who had booked directly with a supplier.

“We’d better know where our travelers are,” Sanchez told Skift. “Maybe [travel managers are] not going to go out and say, ‘We’re going to change our programs and everything’s direct booking.’ … We do have to pay attention to the travelers that do it this way.”

Adapting to Traveler Needs

On the plus side, corporations are changing their travel platforms to better handle these shifts in traveler behavior—for example, tools are being created that automatically scan email inboxes or that make sharing travel information easier. Mike Koetting, Concur’s executive vice president for supplier and travel management company services, suggests this underlines the importance of a more proactive approach.

“Companies that continue to limit the scope of their travel management program to the traditional channel have almost certainly lost visibility, savings, and control over spending in the nontraditional channels,” Koetting said, according to the foundation’s blog post. “Capturing and managing travel, no matter where it was purchased, is no longer optional for a well-managed travel program.”

The report, which relied on in-depth interviews with travel managers along with a supplemental survey, is free to download for GBTA members.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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