Skift Take

Concur has faced intense pushback from the business travel establishment to its open booking initiative. Rebranding it as TripLink is a small bow to that opposition, but the essentials of the program remain the same.

Concur’s controversial Open Booking initiative, which captures bookings that business travelers make outside their company-prescribed corporate-booking tools and travel agencies, has been rebranded in the face of industry pushback as TripLink.

The rebranding occurred during the summer, and didn’t get much attention because the corporate travel industry still refers to it informally, and debates its merit, as “open booking.”

The basics of the program remain the same: With TripLink, corporations that are Concur customers will be able to keep track of bookings that their employees make outside of the prescribed corporate-booking tool or affiliated travel management company.

If the booking is made on the websites of Avis, Budget, or InterContinental Hotels, early partners when the program launches in 2014, and the traveler has linked their Concur profiles with the respective loyalty programs, then the business travelers will get credit for the corporate rate if their employer has one with AvisBudget or InterContinental.

Tim MacDonald, Concur’s executive vice president of platform and data services, doesn’t agree that Open Booking got rebranded into TripLink because of opposition to the plan, but says there were “misperceptions” that Open Booking encouraged road warriors in managed travel programs to book outside preferred channels.

MacDonald made his comments to Skift on the tradeshow floor at the PhoCusWright conference in Hollywood, Florida.

The TripLink name itself comes from technology Concur brought in-house when it acquired GDSx.

If TripLink doesn’t encourage booking outside corporate channels, then it at least is a testament to the fact that road warriors will continue to book online and away from the tools that their companies want them to use.

MacDonald estimates that 50% of hotel bookings and 30% of flight bookings take place outside of preferred channels as road warriors seek to wrack up loyalty points or just have allegiances to other suppliers whom their companies may not have negotiated deals with.

Asked about the American Express program that seeks to engender booking through preferred suppliers via gamification, MacDonald says, “that’s trying to put the genie back in the bottle.”

MacDonald acknowledges, though, that open booking, or TripLink, may not be the only viable solution to dealing with the problem of business travelers booking outside of corporate channels.

Travel management companies and some corporations argue that such “leakage” not only hurts corporations’ leverage with preferred suppliers, but also is a detriment to “duty of care,” servicing and ensuring the safety of their travelers.

In additiion to suppliers AvisBudget and InterContinental being integrated into TripLink, Marriott and LaQuinta have announced they are finalizing TripLink deals with Concur, and MacDonald says another large hotel chain is being integrated into TripLink and will be on board in the first quarter of 2014. He declined to name the hotel chain.

MacDonald says about 400 corporations have signed up for TripLink. He says about half of the new clients that Concur notches deals with are agreeing to use TripLink, as well.

In addition, a dozen or more travel management companies have signed up as resellers of TripLink, helping Concur to market the program.

MacDonald says Concur employees will start testing TripLink in December, and the open booking program, now called TripLink, will be introduced in early 2014.

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Tags: american express, avis budget, concur, intercontinental hotel group, open booking

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