Niklas Andreen, SVP of Hospitality at Travelport
Hotel booking is big business and, according to Euromonitor International, hotel booking value is projected to grow from $480 billion in 2013 to $600 billion in 2017. This is in part due to growth in the corporate travel industry and, according to forecasts by the GBTA, 2016 is set to see an even greater increase in spending on business travel.
Business travellers now expect the same booking experience and choice they have seen evolve in the leisure travel space. They want a fast, seamless booking and payment process including the ability to not only book chain hotels but independents too.
They want to review and choose between prepaid and pay on departure rates, rates including ancillary options and they want to see where on a map their choice of hotel is. And they want all of this comparability offered simply through a traditional offline agent, a corporate booking tool or based on their approved booking process.
There are plenty of opportunities out there for corporate travel agencies that can meet these demands, so what does it take to maximise success in these areas?
1. Offer more choice of hotel content
To meet the demands of the corporate traveller, corporate agencies need to focus on expanding the depth and breadth of hotel content they offer, in order to stay ahead of their competitors and really add value. For Travelport, this has meant us building a hotel portfolio of 650,000 properties and offering that to our travel agency community.
2. Focus on seamless booking process
In such an increasingly competitive industry, it’s more important than ever for corporate agencies to streamline their booking process and provide a seamless experience at the point of sale and beyond.
This includes including items like TripAdvisor ratings, comparable rates and maps in the booking process so that the traveller doesn’t have to ‘go surfing’ or wait while their agent does the same to find the information.
Interestingly, a customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related versus price or product related . Offering the best customer service and the ‘personal touch’ should continue to be a key focus, especially as 76% of consumers say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them .
3. Embrace new payment methods
We see a big opportunity in the area of alternative virtual payment methods due to the key benefit of mitigating against fraud associated with card payments, which a total of 62% of organisations have experienced . Virtual payment methods are also simpler and more efficient, which also helps achieve a seamless booking process.
How to maximise opportunities
By working with Travelport, corporate agencies can offer their customers more choice to drive those bookings as we provide a greater volume and diversity of hotel content than any of our competitors. We have around 650,000 properties, a number of the world’s major hotel chains connected to us and we also integrate content from over 20 hotel aggregators.
Additionally, with corporate travellers booking more independent hotels than ever before, we have partnered with HRS, to bring more than 60,000 independent hotels onto our platform.
For customers that don’t have complex air travel needs but still book hotels, for example national businesses which have sales consultants visiting customers, we have also invested in a cost efficient hotel only Corporate Booking Tool, Travelport Hotelzon.
For corporate booking tool providers and online travel agencies, our Universal API allows them to pull together content delivered from multiple sources into a cohesive display. This allows for more effective search, comparison, reservations and payments.
This product is used by some of the world’s largest online travel agents to offer a similar choice and breadth in a world where travellers are doing an increasing amount of travel booking themselves.
As well as offering the right hotel content, to offer a seamless booking process we also need to effectively solve the need for quick, simple and secure payment methods.
Travelport has therefore invested in this area to meet these needs and our corporate agency customers can take advantage of highly beneficial alternative payment options for airfares, hotels and cars.
These include Conferma hotel billback and eNett Virtual Account Numbers (VANs), allowing end-customers to pay for airfares or hotels without using their personal or business credit cards.
These payment methods simplify payments, reconciliation and commissions compared to traditional cards, while facilitating safer and more cost effective payments to travel providers.