The trend of business travelers booking their travel through the channels that are most convenient for them is on the rise, but does open booking threaten to leave corporations out of the loop? PYMNTS sat down with Cara Whitehill, SVP and GM at Traxo, to talk through the ways in which data can be utilized to close the gaps of open bookings.
PYMNTS: As a B2B data solutions provider for the travel industry, where do you fit in the corporate travel ecosystem?
CW: Traxo fits nicely, if you think of us in a way as almost like a piece of the infrastructure. We are supporting different constituencies in the travel ecosystem such as travel management companies (TMCs), expense application providers, and mid-office solution providers. We aggregate data from disparate sources, organizing and synthesizing that data and then making it available to whichever endpoint is relevant for their particular use case.
PYMNTS: What observations can you derive from the data you collect? What trends are you seeing?
CW: We just got back from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention a week and a half ago and the whole trend in open bookings is just getting more and more pronounced. Whereas a couple years ago it was almost blasphemous to even talk about it, now we are seeing the page has really turned and cutting edge TMCs and corporations are really thinking about how to meet that need of their travelers when the travelers are, for various reasons, booking more and more travel services outside of the official channel. There are many reasons why it happens, but at the end of the day the TMC or the corporate travel manager has a distinct need to get visibility into all of that activity, whether it’s for duty of care purposes, tracking spend or for integrating itinerary data and the associated costs into their expense application so they can better track and manage and control where those expenses are occurring. The open bookings trend is getting more pronounced, not less pronounced.
PYMNTS: What is unique about your technology and how are you leveraging your experience with consumer travel to serve the corporate travel sector?
CW: The thing we do that we think is a bit unique is not just offering one single technology. We have a variety of ways that we can integrate with different data providers and distribute data out to the necessary endpoints. Email parsing is one of those pieces. A lot of folks look at email parsing as pretty complex, but it’s actually a pretty common and easy to use service for the end traveler, allowing them to just forward their itinerary in.
When an API is available, we will connect to a data source to integrate via the API. We work with various TMCs where they are passing us a booking component that we marry with other pieces of the itinerary the user may have booked through some other channel. We can then put all that data together through a proprietary technology we’ve developed to do all the normalization, structuring and synthesizing. Then we push it out through our API to whatever point it needs to be integrated into. SAP, for example, uses us for their travel and expense product, while Cornerstone is a partnership we announced recently where they are integrating data through our API into their mid-office solutions. We serve other TMCs and expense applications providers in a similar way.
Our uniqueness is really a function of the comprehensive technology we provide and the variety of the data sources we tap into and the way in which we do that.