With increased options and more complex business needs, what should you be looking for in an online booking tool?

Nick Pearson

Sales and Key Account Manager, Corporations - Pacific

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The role of technology is to make the complex simple, and that is exactly what a good online booking tool should do for any corporation.

Travel is among a corporation’s biggest indirect costs, and as key element in a travel management program an online booking tool (OBT) can have a significant bottom line impact. It’s important to find one that meets your business’ needs. So where to begin when you are considering implementing or changing your booking portal?

With most OBTs all claiming to be the newest and the best, and with more options in the market than ever before, it can be confusing to make a choice, or even to narrow down the field for consideration.

On the surface, most OBTs seem to do the same thing, ie enable travellers to search, compare and book their corporate travel. But it’s how they do that that is crucial, because that will determine adoption and compliance, which in turn leads to bottom line benefits. And there is more an OBT can (and should) deliver to corporations than just facilitating bookings.

While each organisation has its own unique requirements, my experiences working in the travel sector have given me good insight into what makes a good OBT, and what you should look for when considering one. So to help those about to review their current booking tool, or looking at implementing one for the first time, I’ve compiled a list of must-ask questions:

Is it simple to use? Simplicity will drive adoption, which means compliance and cost savings for the corporation. Look for an intuitive user experience, that mimics that of an online travel agency experience. 

OBTs today must also be mobile responsive and/or be available as an app, in order to be accessible to travellers 24/7 and drive adoption.

Can it deliver the content you require? Content is king when it comes to selecting an OBT. It needs to deliver the widest choice possible, while ensuring policy can be enforced and traveller safety is considered. Great content ensures happy travellers who don’t need to look outside the OBT, which means better policy compliance and more travel spend data.

Conversely, with more content booked through a single source, your business can be better informed in sourcing, buying and booking decisions.

Make sure your OBT is equipped to handle new and evolving forms of content, such as NDC, at all stages of the travellers journey ie booking, amendments and also service and support of the traveller while they are on the road. It also needs to handle a wide range of different types of accommodation, as well as preferred suppliers and negotiated rates in a simple, efficient way.

Does it give you more control? An OBT captures data that gives visibility on travel spend and habits. It’s data you need access to in order to better control costs, measure ROI, and manage your travel and expenses in a more strategic way.

It’s important to see what information the OBT can capture, and what reports and analytics are available to give you these insights so you can truly measure the success of your travel program.

How secure is it? Make sure you look for a technology provider that can effectively protect both your traveller and organisation’s sensitive data. They should have strict security and safety protocols – both virtual and physical – that protect that information.

Look for certifications such as ISO certification and PCI DSS compliance as assurance of a commitment to robust data security.

Can it make us more efficient?  An OBTs core job is to enable employee self-service for their travel bookings. But it also needs to have easy maintenance and administration behind the scenes .

Get a good sense of what is involved in setting up new user accounts and travel policy, and handling new content sources. Will it save you time or be more of a headache? Will it cost you more to do this? Or can it make your organisation more productive?

Can it help with duty of care? Ensuring the care of travelling employees is a must for any corporate travel program. Can the OBTs you are considering help you with that, beyond just providing an itinerary? 

There’s a few ways this can happen, whether it’s consolidation of booking information from outside the OBT for a full view of traveller movements, through to built-in or integrated traveller tracking. Look into how your OBT can support you in meeting your duty of care obligations.

Above all, the overarching question is will it be better? When you weigh up all the elements – user experience, depth of content, the time saving tools it has, the potential for cost control, traveller safety, easy administration – even the account management you will receive - will it be an improvement on what you currently have? The answer to this should greatly inform your decision.

It’s also important to select an OBT from an IT provider who can provide you with great service and support. And one that has the resources and flexibility to support changes to your program, as well as adapt to whatever the future may hold. 

Amadeus has a strong commitment to research and development that allows us to gain insights into market requirements, and then develop innovative, flexible and scalable solutions that meet market needs. One example of this is Amadeus cytric Travel. 

Amadeus cytric Travel is a scalable, cloud-based solution that can evolve as your business does. It makes the traveller experience easier, simpler and faster, offers the flexibility to handle airline merchandising and customised content and is highly secure. It can help you achieve bigger savings, greater employee satisfaction, productivity and duty of care – getting more value out of your travel budget.

If you want to know more, I’d love to have a chat to you about what it can do for your travellers and your business.

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