Concur Commits To TMCs As Part Of Open Booking Quest

Many questions are swirling around Concur's "Open Booking" initiative, not the least of which is how travel management companies will be involved. If travelers from Concur clients are free to book through whichever channel they chose, how can TMCs help manage those bookings?

According to Concur COO Raj Singh's keynote speech Wednesday at the company's annual user conference in Las Vegas, there's a new, three-pronged plan.

"We spent the better part of Monday talking with your travel management companies about exactly how we could work together to make sure these transactions are manageable for you," Singh told attendees. "We came up with a strategy that we will be rolling out with your partners over the next 90 days."

It starts with "open APIs," Singh said. "Every piece of data that we collect is available to your TMC. They can pull that data out and use it for their reporting capabilities. That's step one. And here is the better news: If your TMC has a limited amount of development resources, we are going to provide development resources to make that happen, because everyone has a limited amount of development resources."

The second part of the strategy, Singh continued, "is that we are going to create a whole set of technology that is exclusively for their use, or exclusively for them to deliver to you. And that idea can range from things like duty of care all the way through to analytics."

In discussing the third component, Singh said that "sometimes your travelers are going to have booked at a hotel website. It happens today. But today, when they are in trouble and pick up the phone to call the agency, your agency says, 'You didn't book with me, so I guess we'll just book you something else.' Well, how about if when they make that phone call, we can make that actual open booking show up for the support person who is answering the phone?" The idea, according to Singh, is to use passive segments.

During an analyst meeting the day before, Singh said, "I'm not going to get into the esoterics of what passive segments are. But to create an active passive segment in the GDS means one thing: that if a travel agent who didn't book the transaction can, if you pick up the phone and call them and say, 'I need help. I booked this on, but now I'm stuck,' actually have visibility to that transaction."

"Think about it this way," Singh continued. "If 50 percent of the hotel transactions pre-Open Booking were happening outside of the corporate managed travel program, they now gained access to 50 percent more booking. They now have the opportunity to service 50 percent more transactions. And that opportunity creates incremental value and opportunities for the TMC to deliver incremental value to the customer."

Suppliers Prepping Their Contributions

Meanwhile, Open Booking participants Avis Budget Group and InterContinental Hotels Group during the Wednesday keynote provided some commentary and new details on how such bookings will work.

Avis Budget vice president of distribution Buddy Altus explained that travelers, via the Avis app in Concur's App Center, will easily be able to enroll in "Avis Preferred and Open Booking." After the traveler provides consent, "profile data then prepopulates the Avis form. Only a few fields need to be complete, so it's easier, faster and more accurate. Benefits and services, like insurance driven by corporate policy, can't be modified, but travelers may chose items like GPS. Once enrollment is completed, the Wizard [membership program] number is created, the traveler is preferred, and the Wizard number is inserted into the Concur profile."

As of this summer, when travelers want to book a car, their upcoming trips automatically will be shown in the Avis app when they log in. "To reserve a car he clicks on a trip and the itinerary details are put into the search," Altus explained. "His contact details, the corporate rate, preferences and policy are automatically included. Airline and flight numbers are included so Avis will have the car ready if it is early, on time or late.

"Travelers are booking on all different devices at all different times, and we need to be where our travelers are in order to capture the data and provide it back to the corporation, and make it easier for the traveler to book," Altus continued. Open Booking, he said, will be available for Avis transactions starting this summer.

At IHG, "When travel managers negotiate their rates, they want to make sure they are offered and booked by their travelers," said director of corporate solutions Tamara Laster. "With Open Booking, we attach the user ID from the user profile to the corporate profile so only the rates that you negotiated are displayed to your travelers. That's a way to help them increase compliance and leverage their spend.

"The intent of Open Booking is to coexist with our current, traditional booking channels," Laster continued. "We still have resources dedicated to TMC relationships. We plan on cultivating and managing those relationships, but the opportunity there is to coexist."

She said IHG would implement Open Booking capabilities by early fall, "just in time for RFP season." As such, she suggested that "travel managers might want to consider adding criteria to evaluate their suppliers based on whether or not they are participating in Open Booking."