Skift Take: When travelers book hotels outside of their corporate travel program, companies lose out on savings opportunities and must overcome added challenges to keep their employees safe on the road. Luckily, there are steps travel managers can take to help lessen the problem. — Dawn RzeznikiewiczBusiness travelers increasingly want to book hotel properties themselves. Sometimes called hotel leakage, the phenomenon of travelers booking hotels out-of-policy is a long and growing problem for corporate travel managers and travel management companies. Unfortunately, shifting distribution strategies by hotel properties are only increasing the challenge for those responsible for keeping employees safe on the road and making sure companies get the highest return on corporate travel investment.
Many business travelers today tend to be more loyal to the apps and digital platforms they use than to their corporate travel program. Travelers want to use the researching and booking tools that best suit their needs when booking their business trips. However, most corporate travel booking tools—which aren’t particularly known for their usability—don’t stand a chance when compared to the booking tools travelers are already using. Travelers also want to be able to access booking options that are relevant to them instead of being limited to a few choices that might not fit their needs. The demand for a better user experience, combined with the demand for more flexibility in the options they’re being offered, has led many travelers to abandon the properties and booking channels outlined by their company’s travel policies and opt for alternative booking pathways.
Companies face a number of challenges when hotel bookings are made outside the program. When travelers make non-compliant hotel bookings, the company loses out on its hotel volume, and therefore, its power to negotiate with preferred suppliers, affecting the bottom line. Such bookings also elevate traveler risk when it comes to duty of care. When booking data is spread across channels that don’t automatically align, it takes time for travel managers to consolidate the data and makes it more difficult for them to provide assistance to travelers during a crisis. Other risks include losing control over the day-to-day traveler experience and lacking comprehensive business intelligence that can be used to strengthen the program.
There are a few effective steps companies can take to bring travelers back to their corporate travel program. A good first step to understanding what’s working and what’s not working is taking the time to listen to how travelers feel about the tools and policies and what’s driving them to book outside the program. Offer your travelers abundant content so they can be confident they’re making informed decisions and give them the tools they want to use and the hotel rooms and rates they need. “Giving travelers the rooms and rates they need to feel confident out on the road and the tools needed to easily book within program is a big step toward encouraging in-policy bookings,” says Marwan Batrouni, BCD Travel vice president of global hotel strategy.
While the hotel booking problem isn’t necessarily an easy fix, there are effective solutions within reach of nearly every travel manager. And with so much riding on in-policy hotel bookings—company savings, traveler security, satisfaction with the entire travel program—it’s worth making the effort to reduce hotel leakage.
This article was created collaboratively by SkiftX, and BCD Travel, a global leader in comprehensive hotel program management, from sourcing and booking to compliance and traveler satisfaction. To learn more, please visit BCD Travel.