Business travel leaders dismiss ‘self-booking’ surge

Senior corporate travel figures have dismissed claims that self-booking by business travellers has surpassed the volume of transactions handled by travel management companies (TMCs).

Figures from an Amadeus survey of business travellers and hosted buyers suggest 66% had access to self-booking tools at the time of publication in January and 60% used them.

Amadeus marketing director Rob Sinclair-Barnes highlighted the figures at a World Travel Market (WTM) roundtable on travel and technology in London on Thursday night.

But the figures were challenged by Advantage Travel Centres corporate director Ken McLeod who said: “It is nonsense to say 60% are doing their own booking.

“Sixty per cent of business travellers do not book themselves and that is borne out by the amount of business done through TMCs. I would say it’s less than 25%.”

McLeod said: “Corporates are generally against open booking, though they understand the need to give some leeway to travellers.”

Expedia UK managing director Andy Washington argued: “There is a place for TMCs and for unmanaged travel. But I’ve no doubt there will be a shift.”

Washington said: “Expedia would argue up to 40% [of bookings] are unmanaged business travel. A lot are by PAs and secretaries booking on our site and claiming nectar points.”

McLeod pointed out: “That is not self-booking.” He added: “Corporates want to know where people are, how they got there and what it cost.

“Corporate responsibility means they need to know where people are and need the management information.”

Diane Steed, head of sales and marketing at the Institute of Travel and Meetings (ITM) agreed, saying: “Travel managers are all about keeping control and tracking travel, and there is a huge area around travel risk.”

Guild of Travel Management Companies chief executive Paul Wait pointed out: “EasyJet started with a particular model but had to broaden it. The carrier had to go into business travel and had to go on the GDSs.”

On Holiday Group chief executive Steve Endacott asked: “Why does business travel lag when it comes to user reviews?”

McLeod said: “Corporate travel does not want to recommend anywhere. If you tell everyone, it pushes the price up.

“A leisure traveller goes once but a business traveller goes back again and again.”

The roundtable, on business travel and city breaks, was the latest in a series sponsored by Amadeus ahead of The Travel and Technology Show at WTM in November.

The discussion and resulting white paper will be used to shape the programme at the show.

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