Business travelers tend to book their trips through whatever channels they prefer, regardless of whether there is an online booking tool or agency that their company wants them to use.

There is fresh evidence, too, that European workers in particular are willing to use alternate channels for hotel and air due to increased variety and more competitive pricing.

The Global Business Travel Association and Concur polled 1,252 business travelers from Germany, France, Belgium, the UK, and various Nordic countries who traveled for business at least once in the last year.

The research found that while travelers consistently use a company’s online booking tool to book air and hotel, they are increasingly turning to online travel agencies and direct channels as well. In fact, online travel agency use has pulled into near parity with a company’s travel agency department in many countries.

Two-in-three European business travelers with travel policies book their travel through an alternate channel, particularly if they have a more permissive corporate travel policy. This poses problems for companies as they try to track travelers and keep them safe.

“Booking data continues to play a critical role in traveler safety and travelers also have high expectations of their organizations when it comes to their safety,” said Jessica Collison, Global Business Travel Association’s director of research. “As many travelers continue to book outside of corporate tools through alternative channels, the lack of visibility this creates has critical implications for both travel spend and the ability to meet duty of care responsibilities.”

Booking Method Use of Travelers with Booking Tool Access
20162018
Online Booking Tool92%82%
Travel Agency66%73%
Online Travel Agency61%69%
Direct78%69%

Source: GBTA/Concur

So why are travelers choosing to book however they want instead of how they are told to? The evidence shows that 52 percent turned to online travel agencies for better prices, and 49 percent did so for a better selection of travel options. When it came to booking directly, travelers did so for better prices and selection (44 percent each) while a similar number did so for loyalty rewards (39 percent).

“Over the past three years, rates of OTA use increase on more occasions than those of OBT use, which might indicate that alternative channel use might continue to increase,” states the report. “These alternative channels might offer more convenience, selection, and better prices, making them appealing to travelers. However, in many cases, non-corporate channels are not authorized booking channels within a company’s travel policy, causing significant leakage and traveler safety concerns.”

Since 80 percent of travel managers don’t use technology to capture bookings made outside approved channels, this represents a big problem. Most travelers said their company captures their location through expense reports, followed by simply being required to forward their itinerary to someone in their company.

So what could make travelers more likely to book using approved channels? Personalized bookings and pre-trip approvals were seen as most impactful.

Future Technology Biz Travelers Want
Personalized Booking43%
Pre-Trip Approvals and Travel Personalization42%
Intelligent Expense Reports38%
Automated Expense Audit34%
Predictive Intelligence33%
Live Chat31%
Consumerization30%
Virtual Reality24%
AI Chat24%

Source: GBTA/Concur

Interestingly, live chat is seen as more important than chat powered by artificial intelligence and virtual reality, for some reason, is seen as important by one-in-four travelers. It seems business travelers are into buzzwords and fads, too.

Check out an infographic with more research from the report below:

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Photo Credit: A business traveler in Paris. Gideon / Flickr