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ITM Report reveals travel buyer concerns with online booking tools

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The majority of buyer members (90%) are satisfied with their OBT’s policy configuration capability, and user friendliness also largely met with satisfaction (80%). However functionality around sustainability and traveller wellbeing still needs improvement with respondents expressing dissatisfaction (50% and 45% respectively).

A report published by the Institute of Travel Management (ITM) has revealed that most travel buyer members are facing challenges with their chosen online booking tools as business travel resumes at scale. Furthermore, there is clear concern regarding the capabilities of online booking tools to meet the needs of travel managers and travellers now and in the future.

In a recent survey of buyer members, 45% stated that their existing online booking tool (OBT) is not ‘fit for purpose’ in the current environment. This figure rose to 57% in the mid to long term. A high proportion of respondents (75%) feel that their current OBT provider is not listening to their needs. A similar number of buyers voiced a high level of dissatisfaction with the proactiveness of their current OBT supplier to offer solutions that are important to them; and 70% were very or somewhat dissatisfied with responsiveness to requests.

The majority of buyer members (90%) are satisfied with their OBT’s policy configuration capability, and user friendliness also largely met with satisfaction (80%). However functionality around sustainability and traveller wellbeing still needs improvement with respondents expressing dissatisfaction (50% and 45% respectively).

Other key findings of ITM’s OBT Survey include:

  • The top three factors rated as most important by respondents when selecting an OBT are proactiveness with solutions, responsiveness to requests, and offline support
  • The top three factors rated as most important when selecting an OBT based on functionality are user friendly experience, policy configuration capability, reporting and data analytics including sustainability
  • In terms of content, most respondents (75%) are satisfied with basic air single/return, and accommodation. Rail content is less satisfactory – 45% are dissatisfied with UK rail content and 75% are dissatisfied with EU rail content. In terms of NDC, only 25% are satisfied with the level of content provided.
  • The top five items on buyers’ OBT wish-list are: full NDC content; user-friendly interface/experience; EU/UK rail integration; better CO2 information (by aircraft cabin, hotels, comparison of air to rail); sustainability aspects/reporting
  • Despite buyers current concerns, the majority (75%) do not plan to change their OBT in the next 12 months. Reasons varied from contractual obligations, recent appointment of current provider and limited internal resources to facilitate change. Reasons cited by those buyers looking to change provider included ‘change driven by fact that existing OBT is far behind other products’; ‘need dynamic OBT that listens to customers and has influence over development pipelines’; and ‘RFP due’.

ITM decided to field the survey after insights from ITM buyer knowledge exchange sessions in recent months laid bare buyer sentiment and mutual concerns about OBTs, regardless of provider. Over 60 ITM buyer members, travel managers and heads of travel, with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities, and who use a broad range of OBT providers, completed the survey between late July and mid-August 2022.  ITM plans to share the report with OBT providers, thus enabling them to use the data to support development roadmaps and elevate their offering to address buyers’ concerns.

Scott Davies, CEO, ITM commented: “As travel resumes at scale and buyers look to support their TMCs’ resource challenges, it could be argued that the online booking tool is more critical than ever. Yet during numerous conversations with ITM’s buyer members, it became evident that for many there are challenges with OBTs being able to deliver on today’s post-pandemic needs for both the travel manager and the traveller. As such, ITM gathered our buyer members’ feedback to present a consolidated and anonymised view of the main challenges and opportunities that exist for OBT providers. We sincerely hope that by sharing this report with OBT providers, ITM can help to drive the developments needed to overcome these challenges and meet the needs of our buyer community going forwards.”

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