Firms Will Begin to Give Staff Even Extra Say in Methods to E-book Their Journey – Skift
Some battles simply cannot be won, and two companies appear to be throwing in the towel when it comes to monitoring employees who do not officially book trips.
Both Illinois-based consulting firm ZS Associates and Canadian industrial machinery company Ritchie Bros Auctioneers are among the first wave of companies to test “hybrid” travel programs.
This means that certain employees have the option to book the desired hotels or flights through their preferred channels instead of adhering to a company policy dictating which online booking tool or business travel agent to use.
This type of “open booking” was developed by Google, so the story goes, but few larger companies have taken the same path. Until now.
“We have a couple of meetings to understand a pilot’s risks or challenges,” said Michelle Grant, travel manager for Ritchie Bros. “It will start small, maybe two dozen travelers. We will look at the people who have already booked outside. It will not be about who wants to sign up for it, but about who is already doing so. “
Grant, who was speaking at a webinar on Tuesday, said there would be feedback and one-to-one conversations with the rogue travelers. “You need to understand what you probably already know that if you are booking direct, you will not get any assistance from the travel management company. Do you feel comfortable with it? There’s a lot to talk about. “
What is at stake?
Aside from the fact that companies may lose that support if something goes wrong on a business trip, companies may not even know where travelers are. These travelers would also lose the benefit of any special rates or perks the company would have worked hard to negotiate with preferred suppliers. Collecting this data also helps corporate travel managers to negotiate future contracts with hotels or airlines.
However, there are clear advantages to being left to their own devices.
“We have seen lower transaction fees for the travel management company and happier, more productive travelers,” Suzanne Boyan, meetings and travel manager at ZS Associates, told Skift.
Knowing where travelers are or who they are flying with can also open up new opportunities with different carriers – and the ability to negotiate fares.
The hybrid program wasn’t turned on overnight, as Boyan said she personally visited each office to make sure staff knew they had a role in the program. “If you want better services, you have to book within the program so that I have the data I need to negotiate,” she said.
Grant plans a similar process. “Slowly and methodically. The pilot will help us find the best way to approach a roll-out. We also want to make sure we can track unused tickets and provide timely and accurate travel and destination information. government regulations, restrictions and so on. “
Boyan also spoke at the Traxo-hosted webinar in which he asked, “What’s next for program compliance?” She said after hearing Grant that her intention to start the Hybrid Travel Pilot was an “early Christmas present … I’m not alone anymore!”
But is this a case where two travel managers just give up?
“No. For Suzanne it can be a strategic recruiting tool,” said Adreas Fabris, Founder and CEO of Traxo. “She has consultants who spend 60 or 70 percent of their time on the go. The case now is that someone who does that kind of Take on the role of evaluating travel policies the same way anyone could evaluate the health benefits. They really appreciate a company that gives them extra freedom. “
Traxo also has skin in the game. The platform helps these companies track bookings outside of the channel and to some extent helps the couple keep track of these travelers’ whereabouts and their spending.
Traxo argues that a hybrid or omni-channel model can also give travelers more booking flexibility and shows that companies respect and trust their employees to make smart decisions.
It doesn’t mean the end for the travel management company either. In Boyan’s case, she was open and honest with her agency Luxe, which Frosch recently acquired. “They are open to it and use it as an opportunity for them to do something that has not been done before,” she said. “Luxe actually found a way to pull the data from our direct bookings and then provide our travelers with a service that we will introduce when we are back on the road.”
Grant said she was equally open to her agency. “We want to have an open dialogue about what this could look like and how you can support us. We still have travelers who, quite frankly, want to book with the agency, ”she said.
However, not all agencies are ready to maintain such models, warned Fabris.
It’s hard to imagine that many companies would offer such freedom when booking next year as it requires verified hotels with strict hygiene procedures. At a time when transaction fees are being re-evaluated, agencies have the opportunity to offer more advisory services on hybrid programs.
And anything that makes the traveler feel more comfortable and controlled on their first business trip after the pandemic should be welcomed.
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Photo Credit: Rogue travelers, who have always been a hot topic in travel management, could find their own way in 2021. Alex Block / Unsplash