B2B Payments

Business Travel In The Cloud

Business travel can be viewed as something more art than science: Corporate road warriors find themselves logging time and miles on the road, racking up expenses in pursuit of new business. But then there’s the vagaries of last-minute flights, hotel reservations and new, as-yet-unexplored territories to land in.

But business travel is increasingly coming under the purview of technology and online activity, and even mobile devices, as pricing and ticketing across the B2B arena becomes more transparent.

To that end, business travel and expense software company Concur, owned by SAP, has announced a partnership with hotel and accommodations company Booking.com to boost business travel options.

The ability to bring Booking.com’s 800,000 property portfolio expands locations and offerings to corporate travelers, Tim MacDonald, Concur’s executive vice president for travel, told PYMNTS in a recent interview.

A key “problem area,” according to MacDonald, lies within Europe, where “there are limited options” for corporate travelers to look for flights and hotels across a unified platform.

That leads to individual activities by employees, which in turn can lead to any number of expensive administrative issues for corporate travel departments. By way of example, said the executive, within the United Kingdom, 39 percent of corporate travelers book direct, which implies that they may not get corporate discounts and may not be following correct protocol established by their companies. In fact, they may wind up spending more than is typically allowed under standard operating procedures.

And, noted MacDonald, there are cases where, in certain parts of the world, the ability to book travel accommodations and flights remains quite limited in terms of availability, and this can prove expensive, too, with, again, employees booking direct simply because options are lacking and there are no preferred suppliers.

The confluence of the Booking.com base, to be made available to Concur’s corporate users in the coming months, will eliminate some of that friction, said MacDonald. Booking.com now becomes a Concur TripLink partner and operates via cloud-based software.

The partnership itself, in terms of fees, exists as one of several features available to Concur users and charges come in tandem with volume and number of features used, said MacDonald.

MacDonald told PYMNTS that the potential for adoption of fully integrated travel and expensing solutions runs the gamut of industries, as the Concur/Booking.com platform is “accessible across the board,” and that increasingly it is “absolutely imperative that businesses know the location of their employees whenever and wherever they travel.”

That being said, he added, there are some sectors that are likely to prove early adopters of integrated and seamless corporate travel solutions such as Concur’s as, say, higher education venues tend to have fragmented ways of booking travel, which also prove to be less than efficient.

In addition, high-tech firms, known for being early adopters of cloud and other services, are likely to be among the vanguard of taking advantage of the new integration with Booking.com, said MacDonald. Government agencies also would be likely candidates for quick adoption of the integrated offering, as much employee trip booking is done directly and now it is imperative, from a legal and safety standpoint, that agencies know where their workers are at all times, no matter how far-flung the locale.

Upon joining the system, said MacDonald, companies can load a list of vendors — hotels, airlines and the like — that automatically apply discounts and itineraries, which are then sent to Concur through a “one-click” setting that can automatically begin generating expense reports. Through TripLink, employees are able to see their company’s rates and also match reservations to company policies. Reservations that do not jibe with those policies are flagged for further review, said MacDonald.

In fact, noted MacDonald, booking and payment activity done by an employee “in the field” can show up in a granular fashion, which in turn informs expense management and allows for greater control by travel and expense professionals at the back-end of an organization.

As MacDonald noted, giving an example, an employee checking out of a hotel need not even physically check out through the joint platform of Concur and Booking.com. It can be done automatically (with a predetermined stay), and the bill is also automatically sent to the back office — itemized down to room service, minibar charges and the like. That can save hours of expense reporting and receipt reconciliation, said MacDonald. “It also helps influence employee behavior,” said MacDonald, in terms of hewing to corporate policy.

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