Posted November 15, 2013

TravelSolutions By Campbell Among TMCs Opening Up On Concur Integration

TravelSolutions by Campbell is among the first travel management companies to achieve certification for Concur's TripLink application programming interface. According to Mike Koetting, Concur senior vice president for TMC services, that API is "the mechanism that the TMC uses to get the open booking data from Concur, and once that agency has that data, they can develop their own version of an agent desktop, which they would use to display that information." Campbell has done just that by building CampbellConnect, a proprietary XML-based system.

World Travel Inc. and Adelman Travel, identified by Concur CEO Steve Singh along with Campbell, Gant Travel Management and a few others as TMCs that will center their services "around the Concur T&E Cloud," also elaborated on their strategy. All see an opportunity to use data from off-channel bookings to improve client travel programs.

"We are seeing many companies gravitating toward the idea of customizing a travel program to their culture," TravelSolutions by Campbell executive vice president Steve Sedgwick told The Beat. "Open booking doesn't mean you'll let the travelers do whatever they want. It could be, if that's the culture you have. We have to bring value back to the managed travel program regardless of how they procure travel."

CampbellConnect consumes data via the TripLink API and automatically displays to agents querying a traveler's name booking data from any non-GDS source, provided that traveler submits reservations via email. That enables the agents to see both TripLink reservations and GDS-originating reservations and therefore assist with itinerary changes and other en-route support, while helping clients fulfill duty-of-care responsibilities.

The approach requires travelers from Campbell's clients to send information from any off-channel bookings to plans@concur.com. Because companies that have purchased TripLink from Concur get a TripIt Pro license, it's simply a matter of telling travelers to forward such itineraries. "You are not going need to remind a traveler more than once, because once they do it the first time they are going to have a much different travel experience in the way they are able to receive support from their TMC," Koetting claimed. "But it also represents an improvement in the way their itinerary will appear in Concur Mobile, because now their open bookings will be shown along with traditional bookings, and it streamlines the way they do their expense reports."

Moreover, by using Concur's GDSX system, Campbell can do lots more with the data, Sedgwick explained. "Companies today really don't know if that hotel booked outside the system is within travel policy," he said. "Prior to the trip commencing, we'll be able to audit the hotel for a lower rate or to see if it's in policy." Such auditing also would work for airfares booked in the open market.

The TMC intends to provide reporting on the traveler, department and company, and, because it collects ticket confirmation numbers, also log unused airline tickets booked outside the system. "We're seeing these days a lot of direct solicitations to the traveler using airfare promo codes," Sedgwick said.

Koetting cited "a robust pipeline" of TMCs that are in the process of becoming certified to use the TripLink API. "Each TMC can build its own proprietary solution and differentiate themselves from others, all built on the common platform of using the API to get access to those TripLink reservations," he said. "A variety of TMCs will have their own unique spin on how to service, support and display TripLink transactions."

And a TMC can leverage the Concur App Center and access the "hundreds of apps that can help customize for each client," Sedgwick said. "There will need to be a resource where you diagnose a problem" that a set of travelers may be experiencing and offer a tailored solution.

"We are at this crossroads in travel today," Sedgwick added. "The GDS is a great tool—I think it'll be around for another 30 or 40 years—but it is incomplete. Our clients are asking for more content and other ways of doing business. You can't stop change.

"I don't like 'open booking,' " he continued. " 'Open platform' is better because it says you can have multiple distribution channels under a controlled policy that is part of this platform."

Progress At Adelman And World Travel Inc.

Over at Adelman Travel, CEO Bob Chaiken in comments provided to The Beat likened the Concur T&E Cloud to "the Salesforce.com of travel."

Chaiken explained that Adelman "extensively" uses Concur's GDSX, "coupled with add-on modules that we have built to perform quality control testing and automation procedures." That enables the agency "to go a little deeper into integrating automation tasks within Concur and eventually have less duplication of contract databases and other databases used for both quality control in GDSX and travel policy within Concur and our GDS."

By combining expense data via the Concur Expense API with TripLink transactions and GDS transactions, Adelman plans to "offer consultative solutions for our customers, using comprehensive data as gathered from the Concur T&E Cloud and our reporting systems."

Adelman also makes use of the Concur risk management "framework" and "may also add in some of the gamification elements from our Adelman app into the Concur booking path," Chaiken added.

World Travel Inc., meanwhile, is a believer in Concur's Perfect Trip concept, according to an emailed response from president Liz Mandarino, who confirmed her agency is "a premier partner of Concur" that currently is implementing TripLink. She told The Beat that through the Perfect Trip approach, "every aspect of corporate travel is simplified and all data is consolidated for negotiation and management of preferred contracts and duty-of-care responsibilities."

Mandarino added that World Travel "is building the data into meaningful reports to deliver complete visibility and rate comparisons that will rein in the rogue bookings and ultimately further enhance the value of the fully managed travel program." She pointed to the challenge of hotel bookings, 50 percent of which may occur in non-designated channels. "This is only the beginning of some exciting developments to simplify enhancements for corporations and travelers."

Meanwhile, Concur twice has identified Travel Incorporated, which still hasn't been available for comment, and also named Travel Leaders, but "because of its proprietary nature, we are not able to provide any details," a Travel Leaders spokesperson wrote in an email.

Posted by: David Jonas | More by David Jonas

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