A year after the concept known as “Open Booking” was first introduced, the travel industry continues to debate the advantages, obstacles and costs of a new style of travel management.
About one-third of 139 travel buyers/managers surveyed in February-March by The BTN Group and Travel and Transport said they had considered the pros and cons of open booking while another 29 percent said they expected to do so in the next six months. The remaining 38 percent said they hadn’t evaluated the merits. Interestingly, 128 other buyers who answered questions about other emerging topics on the survey, skipped the open booking questions.
Proponents contend that open bookings are the traveler-centric solution to appease a new generation of travelers, the millennials, who don’t want to be told where and what to book. They also point to the rapidly developing technologies, apps, distribution options and supplier promotions that an open booking strategy would allow travelers to tap into.
Opponents argue that open bookings portend the end of managed travel as we know it and warn of the loss of negotiated discounts, savings, data and information for duty of care programs. And they note that an open bookings strategy would generate other costs to garner data and service travelers.
This BTN Group white paper, sponsored by Travel and Transport, will explore the opportunities that have prompted some to embrace the concept, as well as the challenges for managed travel programs, travel management companies and others in the managed travel ecosystem.
Unmanaged or Open?
If open booking is about allowing travelers to book in whatever channel they prefer—whether that is the preferred online booking system, supplier site or thirdparty—some question whether the concept is really unmanaged travel. Even open
opponents are quick to note differences between unmanaged and open booking.
“Unmanaged travel is simply something you have no idea about; people going to conferences and events and booking in different manners,” Oracle global travel process and policy owner (GPO) Rita Visser told participants at The BTN Group’s Tech Talk conference. “Open booking is giving travelers the opportunity to make other choices; choices outside their program and still trying to manage them.”
Cognizant global travel manager Kathleen Kaden said her definition of open booking is “how do you take unmanaged travel,” whether from conferences or booking client hotel rates through outside channels, “and bring it back into your program before it happens so you can have some effect on it,” before the money is spent.
Proponent Dorian Stonie, senior manager of global travel and social technologies for Salesforce.com, told Tech Talk participants that the difference with open booking is “do we manage on the front-end or backend? With open booking, we’re opening up the distribution channels, but managing the information on the back end,” instead of a more traditional program that relies upon “one global travel management company, one distribution system and one online booking tool.”
The travel industry is changing, Stonie noted. “Our distribution channels are fragmenting on a daily basis. There’s a new promotion or new grouping of preferred programs. Instead of trying to prevent all the new apps, programs and use of such promotions, we want to offer a program that’s flexible enough to embrace them, to bring in areas of additional savings, while also strengthening our relationships with preferred suppliers.”