Uncertain times – I have lost count of how many times I heard the phrase “uncertain times” over the last two months. Since the spread of COVID-19 began, the world has certainly been faced with innumerable challenges on every imaginable level - physically, mentally, spiritually, and more, especially in the realm of business travel. There are many issues that lend to the uncertainty. Will this pandemic happen again? How long until we get back to “normal”? What will “normal” be? Will we be prepared to combat the virus both now and in the future? There are, however, some topics in the world of corporate travel that many feel certain about.
The Importance of Duty of Care and Need for a Risk Management Plan
Now more than ever, it has become apparent that organizations need to have the utmost accuracy in knowing where their travelers are and have been. The need for a solid risk management plan to provide holistic Duty of Care has been a hot topic in the webinars and news articles since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 made it painfully obvious that many organizations had no visibility into, and no idea where, their employees were or had been and if they had traveled to hotspots that posed the most risk of spreading the virus. Due to this lack of visibility, many organizations were left scrambling.
The Need for Compliance to an Organization’s TMC Policy?
For many years, travel management companies have certainly improved the art of data tracking and reporting to help their clients know when their employees are traveling, where they are traveling, and where they are staying when they arrive at their destinations. At the click of a button, when a CEO or Risk Manager says to the travel manager “Who did we have in China between November of 2019 and February of 2020?,” he or she can typically pull detailed reporting through their TMC of exactly who was there, where they stayed, the duration of their trip, how much they spent, and much more.
But, what happens when the TMC is bypassed and the traveler books their flight or hotel elsewhere, such as the airline site, hotel app, conference website, or online travel agency?
The Problem of Booking “Leakage”
When an employee books a business trip outside of the company’s mandated corporate travel program, it creates blind spots for the company’s corporate travel manager. The travel manager has zero information about this traveler’s itinerary. No organization has 100% compliance with their booking tool; even the strongest mandated programs have some amount of leakage, although the percentage will vary from one company to the next. But even small amounts of leakage can expose the company in an emergency -- for example, if 20% of a company’s travelers book outside the TMC, when that CEO or Risk Manager comes to the travel manager in an emergency situation, the travel manager may not be able to account for 20% of traveling employees.
Travelers have a myriad of reasons why they will not book through an organization’s managed travel program. Dislike of the provided booking tool and functionality, the perception that better rates can be found elsewhere on the internet, and the desire to receive loyalty points with a particular supplier are among the top drivers of off-channel bookings. TMCs have invested heavily in solutions to combat this leakage, including adding broader selections of content, improving the booking tool experience, and addressing low hotel attachment rates. For example, when an employee books a flight through the mandated tool, many TMCs fire an instant message to the employee to remind them to book their hotel via their tool as well -- making it simple for employees to stay in compliance.
However, while these solutions can help improve compliance, they still leave gaps where bookings can leak out of program. If an employee books their flight outside of the TMC tool, for instance, they won’t get that triggered reminder message to add a hotel -- because the original flight booking was invisible to the TMC in the first place.
Who is Traxo?
To combat the challenge of tracking bookings made outside of the TMC, companies have invested in robust expense reporting, credit card reconciliation, and business intelligence tools. These methods help to provide accurate data for traveler spend, but aren’t reliable for data about actual itineraries. The additional challenge with these methods is timeliness: data is provided after the trip, which means it can’t support duty of care needs, and is dependent on the traveler to submit their expenses which could take months to receive and process.
Traxo is a data aggregator that automatically captures travel data when a traveler books a trip via any method (whether through a TMC, direct through a supplier, with an online travel agency, etc) in real time, before the trip is taken.
How is Traxo a Complement to Your TMC?
Traxo partners with multiple TMCs today to provide them visibility into the portion of bookings their clients may make outside the TMC’s systems. For TMCs that integrate with Traxo’s data aggregation platform, Traxo can automatically feed off-channel data, in real time, to the TMC so it can be integrated into the TMC’s systems for reporting, service, and support. When the CEO or Risk Manager asks “Who did we have in China between November of 2019 and February of 2020?”, the travel manager can confidently know that all of the data can be provided, not just the ones that were booked through the TMC. Having this data in real time allows an organization to use that data however they like (i.e. driving compliance, pushing the data to suppliers, analyzing for spend amounts based on where booked, etc.).
Most organizations have worked very hard to have a managed program, and Traxo can work alongside their TMC to ensure that any gaps created by off-channel bookings are filled. Traxo can ensure you are prepared to know where all your travelers are, where they have been, and where they will be regardless of how they booked.
If you would like to learn more about how Traxo can eliminate blind spots in your travel program, please reach out to us here, and we would be grateful for the opportunity to show you how our solution works.