Simple, smooth and speedy – the ultimate user experience everyone wants when booking business travel.

In fact, business travel buyers rated great online booking performance as the number one priority for 2023 – a jump from fifth place in 2022 – in a report released by the Institute of Travel Management earlier this year.

Among the elements travel buyers wanted better support with from their travel management companies’ online booking tools (OBTs) were duty of care information at point of sale; integrated air/rail display; booking changes and disruption handling, plus including data on carbon emissions when booking.

As we head into the second half of the year, has your TMC made optimising its OBT a priority? We asked Reed & Mackay Global Director, Product, Fahim Khan what lies behind any challenges facing the industry with optimisation and where changes can be, and have been, made.

Reed & Mackay online booking tool


“Providing duty of care information at the time of booking can be difficult to tackle because different organisations have different levels of acceptable risk,” Khan explains. “Plus, what we see across industry, is that it’s hard to find one single source of truth on an OBT. What your TMC sees online can be different to what the traveller sees, which could be different to what your duty of care company is advising you on. I can see why buyers may find this challenging.”

These challenges are part of the reason Reed & Mackay built R&M/Protect. Across R&M/iQ – the proprietary, client-led travel technology ecosystem infrastructure, which R&M/Protect is part of – access to information from our risk management company partner, Crisis24, is integrated directly within the platform. “And not just at OBT level but across all aspects of the platform,” Khan adds. “So our consultants get to see it, it powers our Incident Management Unit alerts and travel managers can see real-time traveller tracking information to know they’re safe.”

In addition, in R&M/Book, when a client searches for flights to a particular destination there’s a simple-to-use option to explore comprehensive information on whether it’s a low-, medium- or high-risk, destination.

“We’re now looking to optimise our duty of care online even further,” Khan says. “We’ve been on a journey in this area of our OBT. We began with risk management then, when COVID hit, we added information to deal with travel restrictions. We’re now looking at what are our customers need next. We’re still in the early discovery phase but we are heavily focused on understanding what our customers want and will move forward from there.”


Khan cites one of the most challenging parts of travel management is not when business travel goes well, it’s ensuring your TMC has a set of processes behind the scenes of its OBT that a client can rely on when things go wrong.

“Whether our clients have booked online or offline, all the details go into our technology ecosystem,” Khan says. “So when a flight is booked, regardless of the origin, R&M/iQ is monitoring that booking 24/7/365. There’s real-time information on delays and cancellations so our consultants can take pre-emptive action.”

Which means that clients can be in touch with a Reed & Mackay consultant at any time, without being bounced to an external out-of-hours service. Online booking technology should sit alongside the expertise of a consultant, for more complex trips or when you need someone to unlock local knowledge. “We offer the capability to book online if you want to do it all yourself, but also always have someone to hand instantly when you need things changed,” Khan adds.


For online booking tools to work efficiently, they need to deliver the information required that help make an instant decision.

And that includes having the choice, provided through data, to make more sustainable travel choices. A topic that’s becoming increasingly significant by the day, particularly across Europe, as a growing body of legislation is driving companies across Europe to reduce emissions.

A key step towards this is the major upgrade to Reed & Mackay’s proprietary OBT R&M/Book, announced at the Business Travel Show Europe 2023. The technology innovation, in partnership with SQUAKE, allows bookers to compare and select a more sustainable choice when booking travel. Reed & Mackay is one of the first TMCs to give travellers and bookers this opportunity.

“This is going to be a game changer for our clients,” Khan explains. “Simplification is the key to optimisation. The end user wants to see, with one glance, what’s the best choice for reducing carbon emissions. We conducted a great deal of user research in how we’ve built out the design for our carbon emissions product – ensuring we make it as easy as possible for clients to make those sustainable travel choices.”


Khan agrees integrated air and rail display is becoming increasingly important. R&M/Book has offered this choice for travel within the UK for several years by letting users know if there is an equivalent rail route for a given city pair. “Our aspiration is to show our customers the best way for them to travel, whether that’s the option to be able to work while on the move or travelling in the most sustainable way. So our strategy over the coming months is to strengthen what we do in rail, looking to bring across more rail content to our OBT. That’s a key focus for us.”


“Crucially, they’ve got to be easy to use,” Khan says. “That means providing the best user experience and offering the best possible content to view on any platform. We are investing in Product & Engineering to build on the products we have.”

Nevertheless, he adds, it’s not just about the technology that’s put in front of the travel manager, it’s how their TMC supports them.

“Communication with customers is key,” Khan concludes. “When we’re developing our OBTs, we look at industry and macro-economic trends and determine how can we facilitate moving our customers across the globe. If you build something well, it should be intuitive to use. Yet if this a new resource for a travel manager, who needs to demonstrate how it works to their travellers, we offer support around change management. The outlook is a holistic one.”