Tastes and trends change over the years. Just look at food. When you were a kid, “Eat your brussels sprouts” was something you had to do, not something you ever wanted to do. Then, chefs started roasting brussels sprouts topped with bacon and they became a food you actually craved.
Like food, travel is a very personal experience. With any personal experience, tastes change. For years, employees booked their corporate travel just as they would eat their childhood dinners. They did what they were told begrudgingly, without expecting a choice in the matter, because there were no other options available.
But, as we all know, when online travel sites became prevalent, business travelers realized they had choices – lots of them. They could research and book travel more easily - with access to photographs, traveler reviews, and discounted rates. As a result, their tastes, expectations and behaviors changed. Why do as they were told when they could get exactly what they wanted on their phone, laptop or tablet?
The downside of choice
While business travelers were happy to have more options, choice came with downsides for employees and travel buyers. Comparing hotels, reviews and rates takes quite a bit of time – time that could be spent working, rather than searching for travel.
Booking outside of corporate travel programs grew, causing travel buyers to lose insight into their spend and travel behavior and weakening their negotiation power with preferred suppliers. Of course, it also made it more difficult for travel buyers to fulfill their duty of care obligations.
Coming together to meet traveler and buyer needs
To meet travelers’ and travel buyers’ needs, travel management companies began partnering with a variety of industry providers to offer a greater breadth of content combined with a more sophisticated shopping experience.
Third-party hotel content integrations provide RoomIt’s clients (including CWT’s clients) access to more independent hotels, more locations and a larger variety of rates than previously available through global distribution systems. RoomIt then layers personalization efforts on top of this content to serve up accommodation choices that meet travelers’ needs within company policy, making it easy for travelers to make smart choices, quickly.
Additional tools and strategies have been implemented to tackle two other common causes of booking off-channel: low rates and loyalty. Some travelers still think they can find a better rate, not knowing that rate tracking services can shop and book lower rates with the same amenities at the same property for them. And, RoomIt partners with hotel suppliers to incentivize compliant bookings by offering bonus hotel loyalty points at company preferred hotels.
As James Filsinger, CEO of Yapta, puts it, “Attachment rates increase by providing the right content, at the right price, at the right time. When that fails, rate tracking can save your bacon.”
Looking to the future
Trends, tastes and technology will continue to evolve. Travel buyers will need to keep up with these changes in order to maximize traveler satisfaction and keep their costs in-line. Otherwise, travelers will continue to view their travel programs just as they did the overcooked, mushy brussels sprouts of their youth – something to avoid if at all possible, or at best, something to tolerate when the boss is looking.
Blog Author: Scott Brennan, Chief Growth Officer, RoomIt, Carlson Wagonlit Travel