16 October, etc.venues Monument
30 October, JW Marriott Grosvenor House
1st November 2023, etc.venues County Hall
The remarkably similar results of surveys into self booking by three leading companies suggests that booking online may have reached a critical mass - that increasingly in the future that is how most of business travel will be booked.
In January the 2005/6 Barclaycard Business Travel Survey, which questioned 2,500 respondents including ceos, company directors, managers and executives, found that 51% booked via the web.In March the American Express European Travel Management Technology Survey 2006 predicted that 58% of air bookings in Europe this year are likely to be made online.
The research questioned 457 companies. It is the first year in which European-based companies booked the majority of their flights online.Now the survey by IT company KDS and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), published this month and based on the replies of 170 business travellers across the world, has found that 53% of travellers use their company's self booking tool (SBT).Amex described the growth in Europe of self booking since 2004 as "incredible" while Barclaycard predicted that by 2015 booking online will reach 70%. This may, in retrospect, seem very conservative. The rate of growth seems unstoppable.
The KDS survey comments: "The industry-wide push toward the use of self-booking tools to improve traveller efficiency and collect more accurate management information has begun to pay off."But there is more than this at play. The push has come as much from outside the industry, in the sense that it is the travellers who want to move to this method of booking as much as pressure from above to adopt SBTS and achieve savings.Yves Weisselberger, ceo of KDS, highlighted these two key factors.
"The market has changed in terms of economic structure, where online tools have proven they can deliver substantial savings, both in terms of direct costs of yielding a lower average ticket price, as well as indirect costs in terms of improving employee efficiency."The online industry as a whole is reaching a mature stage, where travellers are more accustomed to using such tools."The tools work both for the company and the traveller and the latter feels at home using them.This, as KDS acknowledges, is likely to push up use of SBTs with the IT company predicting that adoption rates in Europe "will soon match the high adoption rates seen in regions such as the United States."
Again Mr Weisselberger pinpoints the reason: “As more people buy online in their personal lives, they become more accustomed to this way of business."When they come into the office they take these new competencies with them and find it much easier to apply the comfort of online transactions to the work environment."Booking a weekend leisure break to Paris is little different to booking a business trip to the same city. As BTE argued last week, the line between leisure and business is blurring.People largely have the skills and with access to all content (88.8% said such access would cut travel costs), they can make an informed choice and then do the booking themselves.
The survey largely confirmed this with 71.6% saying they preferred to book online and 80% saying they preferred to do it themselves for a point to point rather than leave it to an assistant.It is not the end of the travel management companies by a long stretch. They still provide a wide range of services which a corporate needs.But the findings of these three surveys do indicate their role is, once again, undergoing change. Making reservations will continue to recede compared with their other services.
There will always be some people who prefer the TMC to make the booking, especially on complex trips. But they are increasingly in a minority.But the bulk it seems, armed with the facility that technology provides, now want to book themselves.