Business travelers are frustrated with corporate travel
booking systems that have limited choices, high rates, antiquated technology
and inconvenient interfaces - and that frustration is driving many to book outside approved
Further, their expectations for an easy, choice-filled
booking experience are being driven in part by the high-quality, user-friendly
tools they can access when booking leisure travel.
Those are some of the
conclusions in How TMCs are
Keeping Up With the Corporate Traveler, a report from Expedia Affiliate
Network based on surveys of regular corporate travelers and interviews with
senior corporate travel buyers and executives from travel management companies.
More than half of
respondents (52%) say they book all of their own travel, with only 20% exclusively
using an approved tool or agency.
One reason for these
relatively low numbers is that only 60% of businesses have a travel policy of
any kind, according to a 2017 study by Egencia, and only 25% of respondents
say their company’s policies require them to book with a specific agency or use
a specific method.
For those that do have
preferred tools, nearly two-thirds (68%) say they book half or more of their business
travel without using them.
The ability to find better
rates and have more choices for accommodations are the two main reasons business
travelers book off-channel.
About half (47%) of respondents say they book off-channel because they
find better rates booking directly with the hotel, and 38% say they find better rates through an online travel agency.
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But business travelers are
also looking for the ease-of-use they find when using OTAs and other consumer
channels to book their personal travel.
Nearly half of all
respondents (46%) say they want improved functionality in corporate booking tools such as the ability
to make changes to existing reservations and new or improved mobile features.
“The travel sector is seeing incredible tech innovation. In
Expedia Group’s consumer business, teams are constantly testing and learning in
order to improve and optimize our websites and apps, and business travelers
expect the same seamless user experience they find in leisure travel. As a
result, corporate tools that don’t deliver lose out,” says Ariane Gorin,
president of Expedia Partner Solutions.
“Corporate travel behavior is evolving, and for TMCs to keep
up, they need to offer both autonomy throughout the booking process, as well as
an increasingly personalized service. By offering a better solution and more
choice, business travelers will be more likely to book in policy, which will
increase compliance and improve duty of care – major concerns in corporate
Choice is becoming more of a priority for business travelers: 36% of respondents say they book outside their employer’s official
channels because they are unable to find a property there that fit their needs.
And companies such as Airbnb are targeting the corporate market with Airbnb for
Work and the new Airbnb for Events. But EAN says travel buyers indicate
alternative accommodations are still not suited to most corporate travel needs.
“Business travelers have very different needs,” says
Valentijn Bilars, senior director of global suppliers for RoomIt by CWT.
“They still need and like the 24-hour front desk, concierge,
safety and security is critical, back-office services and some form of
standardized offering. Also business travelers are not as price-sensitive as
leisure travelers, so they are less willing to let go of service.”
The majority of respondents (68%) use desktop or mobile
platforms to book travel on their own – versus 20% that email an agent and 9%
that call an agent.
EAN says this trend offers another message for travel
management companies: They can retain and recapture travelers by embracing new
technology that makes the self-service booking experience fast and simple.
“It will not be long before the vast majority of business
travel is booked from a smartphone using our mobile application,” Bilars says.
EAN’s analysis concludes that travel management companies
should offer or partner with a “consumer-like, well-supported booking tool” and
should create systems that meet the needs of both travelers and travel buyers.