Corporations that have established strict travel policies for their employees are fighting an ever-more difficult, and some might say, losing battle.

Given the maturation of online travel, the emergence of Gen Y and Gen X employees, the advent of social media and mobile, and the stubborn tug of travelers wanting to accrue miles and points regardless of what their companies’ travel policies are, an increasing number of travelers are booking wherever they want, regardless of their companies’ travel restrictions.

Conservative-minded corporations call this trend “leakage,” meaning their travel policies have spung a leak because of their newly independent-minded employees.

Travel and expense company Concur has been on a mission to help corporations deal with the problem by enabling business travelers working for large corporations to book their travel almost anywhere they want, and they would still be able to get the preferred rates that their companies have negotiated with airlines, hotels, and car rental companies.

But one weapon that Concur hasn’t talked much over the last year or so as it has articulated its drive for Open BookIng is the role of TripIt, which Concur acquired in January for 2011 for about $120 million.

But, you can expect that to change.

Marketing TripIt Pro

Concur is preparing an invigorated offline advertising campaign to market TripIt Pro, the premium version of the itinerary management service, featuring seat alerts and points tracking in iPhone and Android apps, says Robson Grieve, Concur’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing.

The new TV advertising blitz is in the planning stages and will build on an advertising campaign that’s been running for about six months on CNN.

What is Open Booking and how does TripIt Pro fit in?

Thoughout the GBTA conference which kicked off Sunday in San Diego, where Grieve was interviewed, corporations and travel agencies have been trying to stem the rising problem of travelers in corporate managed travel programs leaving approved corporate booking tools unopened, and instead opting to book directly on supplier websites not endorsed by the employees’ corporation.

Tight Integration of Supplier Partners

Concur wants to enable employees to book Avis or InterContinental Hotels, for example, directly on the suppliers’ websites, and if the employees’ companies have relationships with those suppliers, then their data about these booking would be fed into Concur Travel & Expense.

Because TripIt and TripIt Pro already have a substantial base of users, with travelers forwarding their confirmations to TripIt, and given the popularity of TripIt’s mobile apps, Concur figures TripIt Pro will be become one important way to get road warriors on board with Open Booking. Travelers can send confirmations of the bookings they made away from the approved corporate booking tool into Concur Travel & Expense through TripIt Pro, and then their companies will be able to keep track of their bookings, and take advantage of negotiated rates.

There are two other ways for employees and companies to participate in Open Booking, which currently has Avis as the lone supplier integrated into the process. Concur announced today that InterContinental Hotels will be integrated into the system, with plans calling for InterContinental to go live in the Fall. Marriott and La Quinta, two additional Open Booking partners, will would be implemented in 2014.

When these integrations are finished, travelers will be able to link their TripIt Pro profiles to the Avis, InterContinental, Marriott and La Quinta websites, and get their companies’ negotiated rates just as they would have had they booked these suppliers through their corporations’ approved booking tools.

Concur also will be using a tool called TripLink, which can automatically detect travelers confirmation emails in their in-boxes, and turn them into travel records that their companies  can track and account for. So TripLink will be a third way to facilitate Open Booking.

Resistance

A lot of companies are talking about Open Booking, although they are not ready to embrace it.

Companies such as American Express Global Business Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel are offering their corporate partners “gamification” solutions as a way to convince their employees to adhere to corporate travel policies.

The idea is to reward employees with points and badges, and to display leader boards when employees are doing the right thing and using the corporate booking tool to book approved suppliers.

Some corporations also plan to hand out incentives to employees when they do the right thing.

Gamification, though, seems like a very weak attempt to stem an unstoppable trend.

And, besides, haven’t awarding points from a game, as well as badges and mayorships, already lost their luster.

As one attendee put it, “with gamification these companies are trying to perfect a technology that’s already passé.”

Tags: concur