Choosing an online booking tool is not an easy task. There are many from which to choose. We’ve put together a list of the top six things to consider when choosing an Online Booking Tool (OBT).
With the average international spend increasing by 5.3% in the last year (to Feb 2019), the ability to book international via your OBT has become increasingly important. Many OBTs will claim they have the ability to do this, so here are some key questions to ensure you are covered.
Do I have to nominate the carriers and routes I want loaded to my OBT?
Some online tools may require you to nominate the routes you want to travel and the carriers that you want available to book on each route. This only becomes an issue when you miss one!
How many destinations can I book?
The most destinations I have seen an online booking tool book is up to 6. This means that your travellers can also book complex international trips online (saving you up to 80% on the transaction fee).
Are there any special international search filters that simplify the international booking process?
This really relates to any functionality that makes booking international easier. We have seen OBTs that can filter search results up to 18 different ways, but there are lots of options out there, so make sure you shop around.
What kind of support is provided for international bookings?
No matter what international booking functionality your OBT has, if your travel destinations and timings are complex, your travellers/ arrangers may not be comfortable making such bookings. So make sure you check that the TMC you partner with can train and support your travellers and travel bookers so that they are confident to manage bookings of all types.
2. Online changes
In the past 12 months the ability to make changes to bookings online has become more and more common, with a lot of online booking tools claiming they can make changes both before and after ticketing. The most interesting part is post ticketing changes and it is worth asking how these changes are actioned and if the process is manual or automated.
Find out about Post Ticketing Changes.
You may wonder why this matters. Well, a manual process means that when you change a booking online, the booking is then sent to a queue to wait for a travel consultant to action it. This may not seem like a big deal, but if it’s an urgent change, it can be. Perhaps it may impact your travel plans. It also can result in additional rules being applied by your Travel Management Company (TMC) around when bookings can be changed AND how much you are charged to make changes. Conversely, an automated process, will change the booking immediately, without any consultant intervention. The traveller can make a change independently, from wherever in the world they are and at any time of day.
3. Hold live inventory
There are not many online booking tools that we have seen that do this. This refers to the ability to hold confirmed itinerary content (flights, hotels and cars) until the booking is confirmed or cancelled. This ensures that when your travellers retrieve the booking after seeking approval they can book the exact same rates/ fares that were available at the time of the initial search.
In today’s fast-moving world mobile technology is becoming increasingly important. Therefore, online booking tool apps are critical to your travel program. The question is not 'do they have apps?', but 'what do the apps do?' The key functionality desired is:
- booking, but ensure you can book air, hotel and car
- approving travel
- viewing itineraries
at a minimum.
5. Integrated access to fares and rates
We all know that the nature of the travel industry is that the distribution of fares and rates is quite fractured. The majority of content is distributed centrally through what’s called a Global Distribution System (GDS), but because suppliers have to pay to have their content distributed, smaller suppliers and low-cost carriers sometimes don’t take part. Therefore, their content is not distributed via the GDS. So, taking all of this into consideration you need to ensure that whichever online booking tool you select, it also provides access to this non GDS content.
This can be through:
- Low-cost carriers
There are online booking tools that provide access to up to 80 low cost carriers
This is access to content from providers that specialise in providing access to aggregated content e.g. AOT.
6. Integration with other systems
Be sure that the OBT integrates with your key internal systems. Most important of these are your HR System for streamlined traveller profile management and your Expense Management System for faster reconciliation. Considering all the above, we'll leave you with two final pieces of advice:
- Shop around
Find what fits with your organisation's travel program. Being able to book international online is great, but if your travellers are travelling to regional Australia, you’d be better off looking for an OBT that integrates with someone like AOT for regional accommodation content.
- Make sure it works!
This may seem obvious but OBT providers have a lot of functionality in the pipeline. If they can’t demonstrate it live or allow you to test it then chances are it is in development.
We've put together a checklist of Online Booking Tool functionality to help you choose the best one for you.