Skift Take

Years ago, the leisure travel industry embraced web and mobile technologies—offering everything from great user experience, to ratings and reviews, to discounts on optional services. Corporate travel evolved at a slightly slower pace, and business travelers were left with what appeared to be significantly fewer choices. Now, that gradual development is picking up speed in the face of intensifying consumer expectations.

People traveling for business today often book their hotels online through a supplier website instead of using their company’s booking platform, perhaps unaware that the company booking platform provides carefully negotiated discounts at “preferred” hotels. Only 29% of travelers book hotels at the same time as air, and 50% of all business travel hotel/accommodation stays are booked outside the company’s hotel program. Why?

User experience and choice

Two big factors drive many business travelers to book out of policy: they want a more engaging user experience and they question whether approved booking channels will meet their needs.

For many years, the corporate travel industry faced significant barriers to meeting traveler expectations while consumer-facing online travel agencies built impressive user interfaces calculated to produce sales conversions. Unlike leisure travel, corporate travel requires complex business rules and must curate content from multiple sources of properties and rates. New technology has removed many of the previous barriers for business travel. Inspired by the most popular apps and online booking sites, new hotel booking technology in the corporate travel industry allows busy travelers to search for and book rooms in just a few clicks on any device.

Like their consumer-targeted counterparts, the newest business travel booking tools feature a highly-visual experience that allows travelers to get a feel for a property before making a reservation. Unlike tools for leisure travel, the new business travel tools meet specific needs of corporate travel programs. They identify negotiated rates at preferred properties, can be programmed with rate caps for specific cities, and can implement travel policies for multiple categories of travelers.

BCD Travel’s TripSource Hotels, for example, offers a consumer-grade user experience that factors in all the complex rules associated with a corporate travel program. It fully integrates properties and rates from global distribution systems, hotel booking aggregators,and online travel agencies. Travelers get access to an extensive selection of hotel properties, including independent and boutique selections, from multiple hotel booking agents.

The platform offers multiple search options, including hotel name, neighborhood, amenities and ratings. It also provides property photos, interactive maps, globally recognized ratings, mobile and booking capabilities—combined with agent support and the ability to track and keep travelers safe. Moreover, agents and travelers both shop and book using the same platform. They both use the same business rules returning the same properties and rates, regardless of who’s booking.

“We know that there is no such thing as rate parity across content channels and no single source for the best hotel properties and rates. TripSource Hotels produces a single result display identifying properties and rates from multiple content sources.” said April Bridgeman, SVP of BCD Travel. “We launched with a few key content providers and will continue expanding them to ensure global travelers always have great properties to choose from regardless of destination.”

The downside of self-service

It’s no secret to anyone who has traveled on business the last several years: business travel has excelled at supporting travel managers while lagging in traveler satisfaction. Now that technology has removed barriers previously dampening the traveler experience, the emphasis is shifting. But it would be a mistake to conclude that added traveler satisfaction comes at a price to the corporate travel program.

The Renaissance of business travel isn’t just about making travelers happier and more productive—it gives companies an opportunity to influence travelers like never before. There are big paybacks for companies that influence travelers to make better shopping decisions.

If you know how travelers are shopping and what they’re booking, you can influence those decisions for savings and duty of care purposes. The more bookings channeled through the travel program, the better the overall rates. Those negotiated rates are like an insurance policy companies can fall back on when spot rates exceed them.

This post was created by SkiftX in collaboration with our partner BCD Travel


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Tags: corporate travel, hotel, user experience

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