Book It, the oh-so-clever service from Short’s Travel, is a game changer.
Book It makes the “Shop anywhere, but book it here” concept practical for corporate travelers.
Travelers can use any website to find an itinerary and fare they like, then send that flight info to Short’s via e-mail.
The Book It system looks up the traveler’s corporate profile, presents relevant travel policies, applies the corporate discount, and with 3 clicks from the traveler, books the flight.
This “Shop anywhere, but book it here” model is incredibly powerful. It eliminates a huge chunk of traveler objections to using a corporate self-booking tool.
Let’s think about some fascinating implications:
Corporate Self-Booking Tools (CBTs) don’t need to invest in, and charge for, sophisticated search and shop functionality. The Book It model co-opts every OTA and supplier.com site’s investment in search/shop by conceding those functions to the players who do that best.
So we should see lighter-weight CBTs, ones that are open to the Book It model of “shop anywhere, but book it here”. And self-booking fees should go down, yes?
What about travel policies and preferred supplier pricing? How will a company apply those before a ticket is issued?
Start with the idea that travel policies are crude attempts to help travelers determine what the best value is. The concept of lowest logical fare is Exhibit A. It’s a clunky framework for guiding a traveler’s choice.
We need a much smarter way to define value. Enter the Travel Value Engine.
The Travel Value Engine will use these types of factors to propose a few itineraries and fares to the traveler:
- The traveler’s preferences, which comes from the itinerary selected in the “shop anywhere” step;
- The corporate travel policies about cabin class, connections, etc.;
- Preferred supplier pricing, perks and volume or share goals;
- Availability of unused tickets;
- Duty of care considerations;
- Attribute-based weightings, such as Fastest, Cheapest, Nicest, Most Compliant, etc., similar to what Rearden’s Deem does;
- Social and gaming factors that influence the traveler’s choice of itinerary, such as what Serko offers in its SBT.
Done well, the Travel Value Engine offers a few attractive itineraries and fares. The traveler selects one and sends it to the light-weight booking tool. The ticket is issued, the data is captured, and the TMC stands by, ready to serve the traveler.
This makes the Travel Value Engine the first, and by far the most important place to influence business traveler behavior. Travel managers will need value engines that are really good at accounting for the factors mentioned above.
That strikes me as a fairly complex task. I suspect a few very focused suppliers will solve the problem. We’ll see travel value engines that are potentially independent of booking tools, TMCs and GDSs.
Travel value engine suppliers will compete on doing the best job of figuring out relevant choices for the buyer’s travelers. They’ll charge for their smarts, and they’ll figure out insightful new ways to measure their results.
Imagine that – achieving 100% adoption of your corporate booking tool, capturing all that data, and having a value engine that effectively influences desired traveler behavior. That’s the kind of travel innovation I’d like to see.
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