Self Booking tech powers business travel
Self Booking Technology (SBT) has emerged optimally to manage programme complexity, ensuring compliance, yet offering autonomy to the corporate traveller
Business travel, with all its complexity is an essential part of any corporation today. According to the whitepaper by KPMG and FCM Travel Solutions-Business Travel in India, Emerging Trends and Opportunities, the industry estimates the value of travel booked/ managed through Travel Management Companies (TMC) at approximately USD175 billion or 14 per cent of the global travel spends. The report attributes the lower share of TMCs to business travel being dominated by small businesses, whose small volumes do not justify using services of a TMC. These smaller businesses either book their travel themselves through online or offline sources including OTAs. The emergence of online travel aggregators targeting smaller businesses by assisting them with Managed Business Travel services has opened a new segment in the business travel market. With OTAs increasingly targeting market traditionally dominated by TMCs as an alternative service provider, it is imperative for TMCs to enhance the range of offerings by using alternative booking channels and differentiating themselves through more value added services considering their ability to offer higher degree of personalised services compared to OTAs. TMCs provide a wide range of services to their corporate clients ranging from basic ticketing services to complete strategic travel management services. In the Indian business travel market, there are three models predominantly used: Companies opting for self booking tools; Companies opting for OTAs, not TMCs and Companies not opting for a selfbooking tool.
WHAT IS SBT
The whitepaper explains that under the adopted self booking tools company employees use online/SBT that is integrated with human resource repository of the company for relevant policy compliance/ approvals and with finance of the company for expense management. This SBT is generally provided by TMCs or procured from system supplier or developed in-house. The TMC's GDS powers SBT, which is used by employees to plan trips and bookings. Integration of TMC platforms with company technology platform is an important criterion for TMC selection for most corporate due to data/ information security risk. Additional services like visa and passport services, Forex, travel insurance and others may be provisioned through a single TMC or companies may contract various partners for the same. Accordingly the SBT's provisioned may include options for all segments of trip booking and may integrate expense management, re-imbursements for seamless travel experience as well.
DEVOID OF ERROR
Geetha Arekal, Manager Global Travel Programme (ASPAC), Unilever Industries, points out that the company has to manage travel for nearly 35000 employees and nearly 4500 offsite meetings to arrange. “For such a mammoth number of transactions,
There is enough variety in the market currently for a suitable SBT tool for corporations
manual bookings are very cumbersome and this is where SBT helps in managing corporate travel better. We have seen an adoption level for LCC of nearly 87-90 per cent while the industry standard is about 57 per cent." She defines SBT as a visual game where variety of options are available on the platform, saving time consumed to search for them. There is some reasoning behind the options available which is delivered as per the policy of the corporations.
Vikram Kohli, President, FCM Travel Solutions, opines that awareness for SBT tools has increased over the past few years. Earlier the company received two queries per quarter which moved up to almost 6-7 queries a month. He feels that SBT tools address the key pain areas of the corporation like compliance issues. One can sell a preferred partner better on the SBT tool; provide instant MIS; quicker and safer transactions; cost saving. "People are looking for a hybrid model where some percentage is online while other part is offline. This I believe is not a true SBT as it still has an element of human intervention. Data collection is still a major challenge. We have introduced the same through SMS service but in areas where there is no mobile network, the approval system fails," says Kohli. According to him, there is enough variety in the market currently for a suitable SBT tool for corporations but, adoption has to be increased for newer features to be introduced in the market. "Technology is moving fast towards chat bots, voice based interactions with increase in millennial population but at the same time, adoption levels of SBT tools at corporate travel front is dismal," he added.
The corporations are seeing the benefits of adopting SBT tools and the good part
Ankush Bindra, Manager Travel & Visa, Ericsson India Global Services, agrees with the benefits of SBT tools but points out that in case of international travel, manual intervention is required to provide reasoning to the traveller for a longer duration flight, which sinks adoption levels. Explaining the concept further, Swati Bhatia, Head–Products & Solutions, Indian Sub–Continent, Amadeus India, feels that through a consultative approach, better SBT services can be delivered. “Technologies are available in the market. They may be costly and a corporation has to opt for their implementation. Consultative approach required where in the consultancy and the corporation will have a discussion to decide which tool is best suited to the requirements of the corporation and what customisations are needed in terms of complex itineraries.”
Some are mentioned below:
• Cancel/ reschedule
• Complex Itineraries
• Mobile apps are more informational than transactional in nature.
• However, the issues of connectivity force manual intervention
Bindra also points out that 95 per cent of the times, rescheduling a flight is almost equal to a new booking and this is a challenge plaguing business travel. He feels that a system has to be devised where the cancellation, rescheduling and rebooking a flight is a seamless procedure and is also considerate of the cost.
"This is the right time to position it to the corporations for the travel agents if they haven't done so already. Tools are available but the corporations have to opt for them," added Bhatia.