The growth of online booking tools has presented a problem for travel agents, as they offer regular travelers the opportunity to search from a range of potential suppliers in order to find the best offer possible. This has led to many agencies exploring niche markets in an effort to create new business opportunities, with a particular focus being placed on the corporate market.
This new breed of corporate travel agents places an increased focus on the level of service that they can provide, ensuring that they make use of a modern corporate booking tool (CBT) in order to help business clients with the various issues that surround their journey. There are a number of ways that this has had an effect on the travel agency business.
The most important change has been the cost of booking travel, with prices increasing in agencies where corporate booking solutions (CBT) have been adopted. This is partially due to the fact that corporate travel agents tend to charge per Passenger Name Record (PNR), rather than via each ticket that has been issued.
While this may seem like a fairly minor difference at first, it is important to note that a PNR not only contains information about the passenger’s ticket but also information relating to their itinerary and the various fees related to the traveler’s trip. All of this information must be stored in a database that needs to be maintained, which also adds to the cost of incorporating a CBT into the existing travel agency model.
This may seem like a disadvantage at first, however, this model also allows for a much more personalised service to be offered in relation to business travel, as the company can now pull records related to the traveller, making changes where needed while also gaining an instant understanding of their itinerary and what needs to be done in order to ensure all of their requirements are met.
As such, many corporate travel agents have found that they have been able to adapt to this model, with their overall CBT offering a level of convenience and service that is hard to find through a regular travel agent and almost impossible to find with an online booking service. As such, even though it may appear a little restrictive at first, the introduction of CBTs has opened up an entire niche in the travel industry, with corporate travel now becoming a major concern for travel agencies that wish to stay ahead of the pack.
Branding and Reach
Many CBTs, such as TTS Corporate, are available as a package that can be branded to the specific business travel agency that is using them, which offers the travel agency a level of reach that they may not have been able to achieve using their more traditional methods.
This means that travel agencies are not only provided access to the range of services that these solutions provide, often offering access to hotels and other organizations that are part of the corporate travel package, but it also allows for the travel agency to brand itself around the model. This is particularly useful for corporate travel agents who don’t maintain a dedicated web presence, as it offers them many of the advantages of a corporate website, with much less of the work.
Furthermore, the fact that CBTs are increasingly common in the corporate travel environment means that a level of trust can be created between the travel agency and the traveler simply due to the fact that the agency makes use of a trustworthy CBT. This offers the traveler assurances from the beginning that their arrangements will be made using a renowned package, with the agency being able to focus on the personal relationships they build with their business clients as a result. This allows for the maintenance of existing clients, in addition to the branding and reach offered by such packages ensuring that new clients are rarely far behind.
Working a niche
Of course, to adopt a CBT a travel agency will often need to dedicate their services towards a corporate clientele. The cost of using the CBT, many of which run on a subscription model based on the number of users and amount of services provided by the package, require its use. As such, agencies find that they often advertise solely towards corporate travel, placing less of a focus on regular travel as a result.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the world of online booking has already eaten away at much of the business that traditional travel agencies have enjoyed for so many years. Business travel, on the other hand, is much more based on the service provided, rather than how cheaply you can get the flights and accommodation. As such, many travel agencies have now repurposed/specialized themselves so that they become dedicated to offering services to corporate customers, while perhaps placing less focus on traditional travel packages.
The Final Word
So how have corporate booking solutions impacted the traditional agency model? While they have thrown in an added cost that some travel agencies are uncomfortable with paying, particularly if they do not want to focus their services around business travel, they have also opened up a niche in the industry. They make it easier for agents to satisfy the travelers that fit into that niche, offering them a complete package that allows the agent to fully satisfy the requirements of the traveler, without the agent having to develop the package for themselves.
As such, they have helped bring many travel agencies into the digital age without requiring them to compete directly or become a part of, many of the online booking tools that exist solely to compare prices and find the cheapest travel. Instead, many agencies have adapted their business models in order to focus on corporate travel, thus taking advantage of this new niche thanks to the increased capabilities offered to them by the CBT. They allow for increased reach and positive branding, at a cost that may be lower over a large period of time than incorporating a home-grown system. However, they also require a level of dedication to the service that some traditional travel agents may still be uncomfortable providing.