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Feature: Booking Tools





training on the tool which has been ongoing and tailored to people's individual needs where necessary. Kipling’s greatest advice


“Travel is one of the first things to get axed when people are under pressure and one of the easiest things to get a grip on in terms of cost control”


from the experience is to use a company that has developed a proprietary tool which can then be adapted and developed according to client feedback. Flexibility is a key area for development, as is functionality. Cate Burn, global service manager at The Appointment Group, says that while functionality has increased in the past six months, tools are still fairly limited and only handle simple point-to-point transactions. Shingles and Saggar believe up to 80 per


cent of travel can now be handled by a booking tool but agree it comes down to the individual company and how complex their travel requirements are.


range of what a system offers. “In general, people don’t invest enough time in getting the most out of it. Travel is one of the first things to get axed when people are under


pressure and one of the easiest things to get a grip on in terms of cost control. It quickly comes onto the radar and quickly goes off it again,” he says. HRG’s Saggar says misconception comes down to travellers not understanding the complexities of the industry. “If I’m going on a holiday on 5th December


I plan in advance and organise my life around that booking. We have clients that change their plans 10 or 15 times before travel. Tools are getting better at managing the change process,” he says. Implementation of a self-booking tool


can also be an issue, with many corporates believing the process only takes a couple of days and not recognising how much groundwork needs to be done beforehand. However, Saggar believes most travel managers are aware that it is not simply about flicking a switch. “They understand it is a programme and that there are steps and processes involved to get it in and use it the way they want it to be used. Very few companies have now not got a tool or have not had much experience in one.” McLean argues that companies can be up


Burn is also realistic about clients’ perception


of booking tools when it comes to what the solutions offer and what it takes to implement them successfully in a travel programme. “You have to manage expectations. They generally think it will be all-singing, all- dancing. Most clients hope it will do more especially when it comes to trying to do something out of policy or increasing the budget,” she says. Click Travel managing director Simon McLean says misconception can work the other way too in travellers not using the full


and running on a booking tool within minutes or sit down and configure it to their exact requirements. “It’s as easy as you want it to be. If requirements are really complicated then it is more involved,” he says. As the technology of booking tools develops further, travellers will gain access to additional content and be better equipped with the capability to do more online. McLean anticipates further pressure from clients to be able to book more online as well as improvements in how booking solutions deal with amendments. He also sees access to additional content, particularly non-GDS, as key, because of the wealth of information available on the internet.


“Everyone is a travel expert these days.


We’re trying to take all of that and wrap it up within policy controls but we have to make sure the content is there otherwise you get leakage,” he says. The ability to book and manage meeting rooms, including videoconferencing, is already an area of focus. GetThere recently integrated videoconferencing in its booking tool and is also focusing on further development in the mobile space with air and hotel to be bookable in the first quarter of next year. Saggar also sees the meeting space and videoconferencing as an area for development and says 70 per cent of travel booked by HRG is for the purpose of a meeting. “This comes back to the total cost of travel view,” he says. McLean, meanwhile, believes the need to


book and manage meeting rooms, including internal resources, is ‘brewing’, and he remains sceptical on videoconferencing. “You will find a healthy layer of dust on videoconferencing technology around the world. If you did an estimate of the deals closed via videoconference, it wouldn’t be very high,” he claims.


IMPLEMENTING A BOOKING TOOL


• Before choosing a system, sit down and think about what you’re trying to achieve – it could be anything from cost reduction, increased policy compliancy, more efficient use of contracted rates, improved management information, overall tighter control.


• Consider also each market/region separately and how different cultures may respond.


• Consider how key bookers within your organisation may feel about the introduction of a tool – do they feel threatened, do they understand the benefits and how it can change their role?


• Do your due diligence on the technology that is out there: what sort of companies are using it and what for? What is being said about it in terms of advantages and disadvantages? Are the technology providers specialists in booking or expense solutions?


• From the outset consider it as a project and manage it accordingly, involving all stakeholders in an ongoing education and training process.


• Consider doing a pilot project with a small number of users or a single department before extending the booking tool further across the company.


36 I THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE 18 I THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE


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