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Monday, May 28, 2012

Travel 2.0: Open Policy and Disintermediation

Travel 2.0 tidal wave is now impacting the corporate world. Companies are now facing employees who complain more and more about their corporate booking tool and their stringent travel policy. In a social and network centric world, companies embracing open innovation, open data could not afford to not listen.

A new movement, initiated by Intel, Google, etc. is now having some tractions due to employee pressure and also due to some new innovations: Travel Open Policy.

What seems impossible before is now possible! This is due on the User experience side to:

  •  web 2.0 technologies. Look at Hipmunk or Superfly
  • the mobile revolution. Look at Kayak new web site thought for tablets
This is also due to one big company on the data distribution side, shaking up the ecosystem: ITA, now called Google Travel (and the power of its API).

The main objective for some companies today is now to embrace open policy movement and to keep their travelers happy. Nevertheless they need to ensure that:
  1. Booking is done with the tool travelers like.
  2. Booking is done at the "right" price (aka. the best or negotiated fare and "conditions") and with the preferred companies suppliers. 
  3. Some company now accept that booking is done with the preferred Traveler suppliers (also called leakage), but they should book at the "right" price (aka. the best or equivalent to negotiated fare) and that duty of care is ensured. 
  4. Traveler Expenses (and the total cost of its trips) and Company Spent Reporting (and all dashboards and KPI attached) are still accurate.
The Beat in its daily newsletter recently disclosed the fact that "Concur is initiating discussions with airlines to enable "open bookings" that would give corporate clients the ability to enforce policy, apply discounts and track transactions when travelers book on airline websites". Disintermediation is not far away. Shop where you want and book on supplier's site, and let Concur know what you bought where (remember tripIt?) and provide unified expense. It is also the same approach advocated by Google Travel with Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Finder.

We also hear some weeks ago an interesting initiative from Short's Travel Management, which lets user do the trip shopping on the web site they want (mainly the big OTA) and then send by email the selected trip in order to enable Short's Travel Management to do the booking. In that case, there is no disintermediation. We're back to the GDS world.

Other solutions for the company still wanting to "ensure control" is to install "browser plug-in" (I prefer to call it a local sniffer) that will raise an alarm when users will be ready to book outside the agreed corporate defined channels: ProcureApp and KDS maverick. Maverick would trigger a pop-up on the screen warning travelers they should be using the preferred booking tool. If the traveler stil decide to go ahead and book anyway, Maverick would forward the data to the KDS client reporting tool.

So what's the future? Leisure market will more and more adopt corporate travel services and benefit from Expense Mgt and Safety and Security services. On the corporate side, the war of the platforms is raging:

  • Google Travel is slowly but surely becoming an alternative to GDS's and offering the same kind of services (airline booking engine, travel API, Direct Booking tool) and will benefit from all other Google Services (Map, Places, marketplace, play, etc.)
  • Corporate Travel Booking engine will provide two offers: an all in one tool (from shopping to expense) and a booking platform API to get the leakage back.
  • Startups will more and more try to bridge the gap between corporate travel and leisure and will offer soon differentiated sites and services.
  • Facebook and Apple will sooner or later enter the game with huge amount of cash.
Who will win? Open policy or Stringent policy?