Turning the Open Booking Lights On

Lights Off, Lights OnGood debates require good definitions.  The polarizing phrase “Open Booking” is a case in point.  It has at least two very different meanings.

A popular interpretation of Open Booking has travelers booking outside the approved corporate channel, with no responsibility to get their booking data back to their company. This is truly “rogue” booking behavior.

Rogue bookings undermine a travel program’s ability to manage duty of care, and to collect important information in a timely manner.  The travel manager is very much in the dark about these travelers and their spend.  Call this “Open Booking, Lights Off”.

The less understood version of Open Booking comes from the principles of Managed Travel 2.0  Specifically, the one that says “Let travelers book anywhere – so long as the company gets the data quickly.”

It’s that last phrase that requires the booking be done in  such a way that the company gets timely visibility of the booking.  Call this “Open Booking, Lights On”.

Some 40-50% of corporate hotel bookings are done in the dark.  That’s a big black hole of spend and traveler location data.  This black hole isn’t being resolved by traditional means.

How is failing to address this well-known and persistent  problem not a dereliction of duty of care?

Travel managers must find a way to turn bright lights on to this problem.  It’s a question of how, not why.

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6 thoughts on “Turning the Open Booking Lights On

  1. Nailed it, Scott! Great job!

    I was especially pleased that you avoided the distraction about ‘millenials’ (defined generally as irresponsible people younger than I am) driving Open Bookings. Nobody likes to ‘be managed,’ especially on travel, and they never have. Outside Bookings aren’t new, its just that they used to be done by phone. Many, many travelers don’t mind taking a little extra time to book travel, if they think it will enhance their trip quality, and don’t fear draconian consequences.

    Two things HAVE changed. First, is the ability of Suppliers to offer more personalized (‘better’) experiences through sophisticated websites. Second, is the recognition of some companies (and yes, they tend to be modern, ‘hipper’ tech companies, often on the west coast, and often with younger employees) that allowing travelers to book on those websites is not, per se, irresponsible.

    Those companies recognize that ‘channel uniformity’ by itself is only a traditional means to their real end: getting the data they need (quickly) to manage travel and meet their legal duties of care. They also believe that technology can make that happen. So, the focus of the forward moving and forward thinking companies today – exactly as you say – is no longer ‘why’ allow Open Bookings, but how to get and manage those bookings along side of bookings made in the traditional channel.

  2. Hi Scott,

    Excellent view on the real issues related to the “open booking” term – which is how to acquire the data in a timely and automated fashion in order to treat these bookings the same way as any traditional booking made via the corporate booking tool or by the recommended TMC.

    It is fascinating to observe how the “open booking” debate always seems to be focused on the perceived lack of procurement control or the general lack of data for reporting purposes. If you engage in conversation with a corporate security officer about this topic you normally get a very different reaction – which is the following very basic question

    “If it is possible to capture all these bookings made outside the TMC channel why is my travel manager or TMC not doing that for me already ?”

    The indirect cost of any missing booking during a risk incident is very high – just imagine the manual time invested in finding out where a given person either has flown to, or more typically where they are staying – it involves making manual calls to a phone number which probably goes to voice mail and might not even be correct – and all this is happening in parallel with the general incident management for all the employees who are visible and reachable.

    Travel managers should start viewing the open booking concept as a major step towards getting 100% visibility of where travellers are going, and then they can decide how valuable this might be for procurement and booking process reasons once they have the data.

  3. I don’t disagree with this at all but the other problem with the word “open” it is an enabling word that doesn’t completely yet consider what the traveler and the company don’t get when the traveler books outside the preffered source. They still forgo policy compliance checks. They will have no idea of what the lowest fare was at that time compared to what was selected for example. Per trip authorization? And then how much more will it cost the company to change one hundred tickets every time another storm hits. As a tmc, it easy for me to change a ticket I booked and the airlines have given us easy tools to help out, but it’s time consuming, ineffective, and maybe even against the contract of carriage for me to call the airlines for the traveler because they booked it elsewhere. We do but we will all have to charge more for those we didn’t book. Consider that. Now I’m interested in that opportunity but it remains un fully adressed. I like having all the data about what the traveler is doing on the trip when they cancel also. So company policy should define the fully managed bookings and those that will simply be supervised and when and why.

    Michael MacNair. MacNair Travel Management.

  4. Johnny,
    I think you bring up a very valid point:
    “If it is possible to capture all these bookings made outside the TMC channel why is my travel manager or TMC not doing that for me already?”
    The status Quo in the industry is running rampant and denial by the mega, super regional and just about everyone else in between. To understand the why the problem exist we first need to understand the role of the modern day TMC and the value provided after deregulation.

    The financial model today that TMC’s live off of is made up of transaction fees, airline overrides, GDS income, hotel commissions and hotel overrides. The reality is your TMC cannot endorse a open procurement platform without providing new services and increased value as they they cannot survive. So its better to go with status quo than to endorse a platform that could bring increased services to the business traveler at a lower cost of procurement. With CampbellConnect we can capture reservations booked outside the system, provide Duty of Care, provide pre-trip audits, travel policy compliance, support for open bookings, and capture unused tickets booked outside the system. A open procurement platform can be managed providing increased value.


  5. Very insightful perspective Scott! And, I love the “lights out and lights on” analogy. It has been very interesting to see how this topic has evolved over the last few years. It was the second hottest topic at the GBTA educational sessions this year (only 2nd to the topic of data aggregating). So, TM’s are really beginning to become more open minded about this topic. It’s been said before but it reminds me about how online booking was resisted and so slow to embrace for years.

    Corporate travel is historically very slow to change where new technology is concerned. However, all of the research shows that “open booking” is something that most corporations experience. And, when companies find solutions, it enhances job satisfaction of the travelers, improve duty of care and helps save the company money. FLEX by ProcureApp is a leader in this arena and can align to help companies implement our technology quickly, inexpensively and non invasively. We have great differentiators including “no email parsing”. (www.procureapp.com). We were acquired by Runzheimer International in July and are passionate about this topic. We appreciate you being such an advocate of the travel industry Scott by continuing to educate the market!

  6. Pingback: Your Travel Management Program is Leaking | Shep Travel

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