"Nobody has been able to solve this problem," Christopherson Business Travel CEO Mike Cameron said of hotel leakage and low attachment rates in corporate travel.
Of course, Cameron thinks his agency finally has done it with a new feature called Hotel Attachment. Christopherson's solution, similar to one nuTravel announced this week, uses post-booking email alerts that implore corporate travelers to book a hotel.
"The standard hotel attachment rate is less than 50 percent," Cameron said of airline bookings that also include a hotel reservation. "Half or more of the reservations have the opportunity to use this software. It's a big gap in the marketplace." NuTravel executive vice president Rich Miller similarly called low attachment rates "a concern for many companies."
Christopherson's system scans overnight airline reservations that do not include a hotel booking. It then auto-generates an email to travelers without a hotel booking with four courses of action: Let the traveler book a hotel immediately, let the traveler set a reminder to book a hotel at a specified date, let the traveler attach his or her hotel reservation if already booked outside the system or let the traveler confirm that he or she doesn't need a hotel reservation.
Meanwhile, nuTravel's FlexAlerts, an "add-on to the nuTravel Enterprise platform," also uses email alerts "at specifically-configured intervals to remind and assist travelers in adding missing hotel or car to existing travel reservations," according to the booking tool provider. Those emails link travelers back to the booking path to add a reservation.
If a traveler elects to book a hotel once reminded by Christopherson, the system knows if he or she booked an air reservation online or with an agent. In the former scenario, a link directs the traveler to add a hotel reservation via the preferred booking tool. If the latter, Christopherson generates a prepopulated template with some blanks for the traveler to fill in, and the request is emailed to the same agent that handled the air booking.
Cameron said clients can configure settings, but when and how often to email travelers will follow a standard.
"You don't want to send the email out five minutes after booking air, because the agent may still be working on it," he said.
Yet, after the first email, the "closer you get to departure, the more frequently you'll get the reminder." Within reason, that is. Christopherson will send only so many if no action is taken. Cameron called it "a few," the exact number of which can be adjusted by clients.
As for attaching a hotel reservation booked outside the system, Cameron asked, "Have you heard of anyone trying to solve that problem?" He added, "This is our solution to open booking."
Instead of forwarding emails to capture hotel reservations booked outside designated channels, travelers are directed to a map of the destination city, powered by Google Maps, to find their hotel by moving the map or searching by name, Cameron said. There, the traveler can click the hotel he or she booked to populate information into the reservation record.
Cameron added that email-confirmation forwarding and parsing by way of Concur "is on our road map. We are not going to build a parser, and the reason that we're not is because Concur has done a good job of that with TripLink and we're a Concur Preferred Partner."
This week, Christopherson also will launch Travel Approval, a pre-trip system that prompts travelers and managers to approve, modify or cancel bookings made online or by an agent.
While online booking tools have built-in approvals processes that Cameron said work well, the new tool addresses agent bookings and adds other options.
First, the approval request prompts the traveler to approve, modify or cancel his or her booking. After action is taken, it goes to the designated approver, who also may approve, modify or cancel. Companies can add another approval layer.
While some systems give two options__approve or reject__Cameron likened the "modify" option to "a line-item veto," he said. For example, a manager could reject an out-of-policy hotel booking but keep the air booking.
Cameron said clients can route the emails to conform to their approvals processes and enable "passive approvals" so ticketing can proceed if travelers and/or approvers fail to respond.
"We're going to strongly encourage companies to keep the traveler level turned on, just to ensure everybody is on the same page with what was requested and what was booked," said Cameron.
In conjunction, Christopherson is providing a dashboard for "super approvers" or travel managers to see all pending and processed approvals and take action on approvals if needed.
Christopherson is making the homegrown solutions available at no added charge as part of its AirPortal platform.