Business travellers’ expectations of their travel booking experience have soared as consumer tools continue to innovate and improve. They expect corporate technology platforms to be equal to those they use in their personal lives on a daily basis.

Open booking allows these travellers to have more control over how and where they book their business travel by using sites and services that they prefer, even if they are not within a corporate travel programme. But is this always the best option? Whilst some companies believe there is very little interest in Open Booking over more traditional travel management services, others are embracing it completely.

The Benefits to Open Booking

Using open booking means business travellers book their travel from their preferred websites instead of only through a Travel Management Company (TMC) dedicated service. The benefit of this is the travellers use sites and tools they know and feel confident navigating.

As long as the technology and processes are in place behind the scenes to capture the necessary data, these non-TMC bookings can still be incorporated into the travel programme reporting. Some programmes do this better than others, so it is worth considering which corporate booking tool to adopt that will allow this integration in the best way possible.

The Risks

The impacts Open Booking has on a travel programme are worth considering and must be balanced against the convenience it brings for the booker.

Traveller Tracking

Depending on how ‘Open’ your booking policy, there is the potential for leakage in your programme with some travel not being fully integrated. This means a potential loss in the ability to track your travellers should you need to in an emergency.

Open Booking also opens the risk of immediate assistance being unavailable. Should a traveller be stranded with cancelled flights, or severe delays, and need help with re-booking, a TMC consultant may have limited abilities depending on the type of ticket that has been purchased. However, with a TMC booking, the consultant is more likely to be able to resolve any issue far more easily and can also be more proactive to get ahead of the problem.

Fragmentation of Airline Usage

Depending on the size of your travel programme, Travel Managers often find a great deal of savings by establishing route deals with particular airlines. These are based on a corporate company using a specific airline, perhaps on specific routes, in order to receive certain volume booking incentives. If bookings are made on a variety of different booking sites, instead of through the TMC, this volume will be lost in fragmented bookings across different tools. Therefore, if a corporate route deal is a key aspect to your travel programme, Open Booking may not be the right option for your business.

Flexible, cost-effective fares

The final risk worth considering is the fare types being booked. TMCs can often access exclusively low fares on flexible tickets that are not available through other Open Booking tools. If your travellers often require last minute changes, cancellations, or any other assistance, then booking flexible fares at the best rates available may be the better option.

However, if this scenario is rarer, Open Booking may allow access to some very low fares; but be wary of booking conditions as these will often be very strict.

Benchmarking Your Travel

If there is a demand for Open Booking within your business, speak to your TMC about the options available. It is also worth performing a benchmarking exercise using your existing travel history. Compare bookings your TMC may make for you with other Open Booking alternatives. This will allow you to balance the difference in cost, flexibility and data integration abilities and will better inform a final decision. It is important you consider overall costs – i.e. the cost of re-bookings and cancellations versus the cost of a flexible fare and fees.

Different businesses will find different solutions work best for them. You may be able to allow a degree of Open Booking that integrates into your overall programme. Or it may be the case that booking exclusively with your TMC results in the best cost-savings and Duty of Care considerations. All options are worth considering to ensure the most optimised programme for your requirements.