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Are OBTs the future of business travel?

21 May 2021 6 MIN READ

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In business, it's vital to know where you can make savings, both in time and money. Often there can be a temptation to try and manage everything ourselves. However, more often than not, a DIY approach can do more harm than good. An increasing number of tools can help streamline tasks and provide better data and insights. Business travel is one excellent example.

In the past, companies either took an unmanaged approach, booking corporate travel arrangements themselves or relied on the services of a traditional TMC. Now OBTs provide a third option for travel managers to consider. But how do you know which route is best for your business?

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What are traditional TMCs and OBTs?

Traditional travel management company (TMC) 

A traditional travel management company will predominantly be on hand to book flights, transfers, and accommodation. Much like a travel agency, a travel manager will liaise with their traditional TMC to create itineraries for upcoming business trips. On occasion, the role of a traditional TMC can occasionally overlap with that of a travel concierge service. For example, a great traditional TMC might assist in finding restaurant reservations or booking meeting rooms, but this service usually comes at a premium.

Online booking tool (OBT) 

Designed to save travel managers sifting through endless booking engines, an online booking tool or OBT simplifies business travel. They allow travelers to choose from a range of flights, accommodation, and transport options within one easy-to-use system. The best OBTs enable companies to plug in their corporate travel policy and automatically remove non-policy options. Feel free to use our sample company travel policy for employees.

OBTs give employees some control over their business trip plans while maintaining checks for management to keep travel spend on target. 

What are the pitfalls and benefits of each approach to business travel? 

Unmanaged Corporate Travel Arrangements 

The unmanaged approach to business travel can be extremely costly. Imagine the amount of time spent trying to find the best rates across multiple booking channels for each itinerary in your travel program. A significant drain on your resources, it's also incredibly challenging for your travel manager to juggle your company's travel policy and business travelers' preferences.

It can also have a knock-on effect on the quality of your business trips. Overstretched travel managers will have to make quick decisions resulting in arrangements that leave corporate travelers stressed out and unsatisfied. Plus, it's tough for individual organizations to avail of the contracted rates that a traditional TMC or OBT can access.

Traditional travel management company (TMC) 

A traditional TMC's big draw is their access to preferable rates with suppliers. However, these rates depend on their networking skills and the volume of sales they deliver. Corporate travelers are often shoe-horned into options that are not the perfect fit but work towards a quota for the traditional TMC. If you need to cancel or alter your plans, having a travel agent at a traditional TMC can come in handy. But in emergencies you are at the mercy of their opening hours.

Customer service for a traditional travel management company tends to operate between 9-5 with a manager on duty for emergency calls. In cases like the COVID-19 pandemic, an on-duty manager would be entirely overwhelmed by the number of calls coming in.

As an organization, not having access to prompt support makes it harder to fulfill your duty of care, especially in high-stress situations. As flexibility and responsive customer support continues to be important after the effects of 2020, relying on a traditional TMC or an unmanaged approach could cost you massively. 

Online booking tool (OBT) 

With so many travel bookings already being made on the internet, an online travel booking tool is a fantastic way to consolidate your corporate travel arrangements. An OBT streamlines the booking process and administrative workload, enabling travel managers and finance departments to save time and money.

Embedding company travel policies, contracts, or preferred suppliers into OBTs has seen travel managers achieve staggeringly high compliance ratings. Meanwhile, itemized reports make managing travel costs a more straightforward task. Finance departments can establish payment workflows and remove time spent chasing invoices.

Employees can book travel themselves while managers can give pre-trip approvals in just one click. Corporate travelers enjoy a better travel experience as OBTs allow them to choose the options that work for them. For example, perhaps one employee would like access to a gym while another would rather have a larger desk in their room. Both are more content and ready to hit the ground running knowing their preferences are acknowledged.

You might think that switching to an online booking system means losing a personal approach but most OBTs come with more comprehensive support. At TravelPerk, our mobile app notifies clients of safety concerns with real-time updates, and our human customer service team responds in just 15 seconds, 24/7, 365 days a year. Plus, premium members can take advantage of our concierge services. 

We are shaping an all-in-one business travel solution.

Reach out today to find out how TravelPerk can streamline global business travel for your company.

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