Why is it always about the OBT?

Written by Michael Chase-Smith  |  Executive Director, Orbit World Travel

There has always been a lot of hype about Online Booking Tools. Whether it be from the OBT providers themselves, the TMCs selling their virtues to prospective customers or an organisation’s procurement, the focus is on the OBT. While the OBT is an important technology solution for any business travel program, they pretty much all do the same thing. The end result is that all the OBTs can book air, hotel and car rental, and some other content, which is exactly what they’re for.

The issue I see is not the OBTs themselves, it is the priority, time and focus that is directed at the OBT when there are so many other critical requirements and functions that are necessary for a successful travel management program.

Today data is more important than ever, and how that data is collected and managed can make a travel program operate very efficiently, or can break the program.

Some of the key areas of a travel program that hold high importance and should have just as high priority relate to:

  • Traveller Profile Management
  • Pre-Trip Approval
  • Ticket Credit Management
  • Duty of Care
  • Reporting and BI
  • Chargeback Management and Virtual Payments
  • Expense Management
  • Corporate Hotel Programs, this list goes on….

Management and accuracy of traveller profile data have never been more important with PCI, GDPR and there are massive benefits of being able to integrate profiles with the GDS, OBTs, mid/back office systems, HR Systems, and other systems. How many places does the TMC or the organisation really want to be managing or updating profile data?

Pre-Trip Approval will continue to be an important function of many business travel programs, particularly in the higher education sector. I am amazed at how manual this still is for most organisations and TMCs. There are some solutions around but they are generally quite basic, with limited ability to manage travel policy and set rules and workflow.

Managing ticket credits in the Australian market is still way too manual and messy. Some TMCs have implemented some automated technology to track unused tickets and other system providers are developing some solutions. Well done to all those who have taken any steps to improve their processes for the good of the client. However, this area is still not given the right priority and generally glossed over. The TMC printing a report once a month to give to the client just doesn’t cut it.

The hot topic of Duty of Care is of high importance but actually means a number of things. Clients need it and want it and TMCs and Risk Organisations try and deliver it. Online traveller tracking, two-way traveller communication, integrated travel and risk alerts are all important duty of care components but they are delivered in varying levels of efficiency, in many cases very ineffectively.

Data and reporting are as important as ever and while it is a topic and requirement in any travel procurement process, generally it falls away after implementation and clients are not getting a powerful online capability. 30+ charts in a PowerPoint presentation and some accompanying reports isn’t a very sophisticated delivery of data and certainly not business intelligence.

There is much more as previously mentioned. I haven’t even mentioned service delivery and meeting Service Level Agreements, which is always sold to a client big time, but often not delivered.

Anyway, what did I start this about again? That’s right the OBT.

What I have addressed about a truly professional travel management program are not new to anyone reading this article, it’s just that the OBT seems to take centre stage way too often in my opinion. I hear so many times that organisations are in the market for a new TMC or testing the market and they ask to see the TMCs technology. The TMC walks in and proudly shows the potential client an OBT and maybe some online reports. Talk about a boxer leading with their jaw. Most TMCs are demonstrating the same OBT, so as a TMC, where is your point of difference?

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good OBT but they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Some are faster, some are slower, well some are really slow. They all do pretty much the same functions, just in different ways. They have their own availability display look and feel, their own workflows, and some provide value for what they do and don’t cost too much and some are quite expensive.

As the industry evolves with NDC and airline direct booking channels, this will put more pressure on OBTs to evolve and alternate booking capabilities will come into play. But that’s another topic in itself.

Really, what matters to travellers or travel bookers is that they can get through an online booking in about 60 seconds or so. They want to book the flights and maybe accommodation, and they want to do it fast.

There is so much more to a truly successful travel management program that Procurement Managers, CFOs or the travellers really want, than just an OBT.

Speak to us today about OBT solutions for your business, or if you require any additional information. Call 1800 067 819 or contact us!

Published 19 March 2019