Booking corporate travel is something that can easily become time consuming and overwhelming, especially if it’s not your area of expertise. Large corporations sometimes choose to hire third-party travel agencies to handle all of the details, while others have in-house travel buyers who are well-versed in handling travel arrangements for the company.

However, as the popularity of consumer-focused travel booking sites has exploded, there has also been a surge of interest in corporate online booking tools as well.

Online Booking Tools 101

Online booking tools are quickly becoming the standard for booking business trips in a budget-friendly manner.

Unlike consumer-facing price comparison sites like Travelocity and the like, corporate online booking tools, or OBTs, have the express purpose of functioning as efficient and convenient ways to book business travel. They can be used by corporate travel managers, but they can also be accessed by employees, which can help businesses save time and money.

Like any other business tool, OBTs have both positive and negative aspects. Here is an overview list of the pros and cons that can help you decide if OBTs are right for your company.

How OBTs Can Help You

There are several advantages to choosing OBTs for your company’s travel booking.

Instant Access

With travel agencies, you are restricted to booking during working hours and availability. Online booking tools allow your business to create and change travel plans 24 hours a day, which is incredibly helpful for last-minute bookings or emergency changes.

Almost all OBTs have a mobile interface as well, and this makes them even more convenient because anyone can access and update his or her itinerary from a smartphone or tablet.

Better Deals

OBTs can aggregate a huge amount of data in seconds. They can help you to find bookings that fit into your travel policy as well as your budget constraints. This often means that you can find lower-than-average ticket prices and reservations without compromising the comfort of your staff.

Compliance and Compatibility

Instead of spending time researching every little detail to ensure that travel bookings meet Duty of Care compliance standards, most OBTs allow you to set custom filters that only show you listings that comply with your company’s travel policy.

In this same vein, OBTs can be configured to communicate smoothly with your reporting tools. This lets you gather data seamlessly and sync it with corporate dashboards and profile management systems.

All this sounds ideal, but there are limitations of online booking tools.

Configuration Restrictions

While it’s true that you can filter search results in order to find better deals on bookings, it’s important to understand that most OBTs coding configuration for out-of-policy bookings are limited, allowing only basic rules.  Corporations struggle to find a platform that can accommodate more complex booking scenarios.  This is why pre-travel approval software must be integrated into the OBT to enable a corporation to impart its entire travel policy into the booking process.

Trondent’s pre-travel approval software Authorizer PRO integrates with any GDS, travel agency or online booking tool.   Authorizer PRO has an unlimited number of rules available for an unlimited number of trip approvers of all levels within the organization.   Its capacity for intricate workflow makes it an attractive investment for large corporations with robust travel policies who seek to improve policy compliance and eliminate wasteful spend.

No Live Support

When you book with a travel agency, you are paying for more than just an expertly planned trip. You are also paying for access to an informed agent who speaks your native language and can help you navigate through unexpected or difficult situations while you are away.

Using travel management software may eliminate the need for booking through an agent, but it also takes away your access to human support if you need it. This is an especially important thing to consider if your trips frequently require complex itineraries or multiple modes of transportation.

Data Dependent

This last drawback is twofold. First, opting to book with an OBT means that, for the duration of your trip, your access to reservation information, itinerary updates and other crucial information is completely dependent on having a reliable internet or data connection. If you are traveling abroad or going to an unfamiliar or remote location, this can be extremely problematic.

The second issue involves your personal data. Online booking tools have become attractive targets for cyber criminals. While it is possible for any company that utilizes the internet to experience a security breach, third-party agencies typically have access to highly secure travel management software that minimizes this risk.

Online Booking Tools Are Changing the Face of Corporate Travel

There are plenty of reasons to sing the praises of OBTs, but there are also drawbacks that should be carefully considered.  If your corporation truly wants to automate its policy, it needs to seek the assistance of pre-travel approval software.

As technology progresses and corporations become more accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of utilizing OBTs, it is likely that the entire industry of business travel will become centered around these new tools.