The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

What is Open Booking?

Posted by Mike MacNair on Feb 20, 2014 10:17:00 AM
Open_BookingWhat is open booking you may ask? It's a term currently used to address the fact that not every traveler is booking every piece of every trip through the company’s travel procurement system. There have always been legitimate reasons for booking outside a travel procurement system (booking the conference rate at a hotel, processing a free ticket, accessing trip components that aren’t currently available via your TMC, using a customer’s rate only available thought their supplier, etc). There are also reasons why it doesn’t make sense (I think I found it less elsewhere, I like to book it via another source, it benefits me to book it outside the system, I don’t want my company knowing everything about my trip). There have been and we have always worked with exceptions to an organization’s travel policies for years. Up until now, we haven’t had a way to pull this “open” data into our system so we can help the company know where its people are, compare the value secured to what the TMC could secure, assess the selection compared to policy, and support these travelers fully when trips cancel or change. Via our relationship with some of the best technology partners in the industry (Concur and Sabre to name a few), we will shortly have the tools to provide this data to customers should they want to invest in this type of solution. We are excited to embrace this reality and provide tools to collect this data for the reasons stated above.

As far as the term “open” booking is concerned, we don’t like it. It seems to be a “Travel Anarchy” enabling term. Anarchy in managing the second largest controllable cost for the average US company seems to be a poor business practice. What other cost would your finance or procurement team advocate securing “as you wish”. Why bother having finance or procurement if you believe in this process? The government and Fortune 500 companies don’t advocate such and approach. The alternative would be “closed” booking and that doesn't sit well with us either as that seems like “Travel Dictatorship”. What our customers want is a “Travel Democracy” whereby there is some choice and consideration within an overall set of laws. Good governance that delivers savings, support, productivity, and control. This can all come when you manage these bookings (book and secure through your TMC), or supervise them (book elsewhere and pull them into your system). While not a perfect system, democracy is still and will always be the best governance system in the world. It respects laws for the greater good of all citizens and provides a way to challenge and amend these laws with reasonable exceptions. 

What is interesting is that the largest proponent of open booking is a company called Concur who provides an automated expense tool and online booking tool (which we provide and support). They surely support "closed expensing". They respect that some bookings may come outside the scope of what their travel booking system and the company’s TMC can secure, but all the open and closed bookings be pushed and pulled into one expense and reporting system. This one system can then be used to manage and supervise these costs. They did not create this system to enable rogue behavior. Imagine the inefficiencies of having everyone submit an expense report any way they wish and whenever they wish? That would waste time and money, reduce productivity, and lessen control. These are also the benefits of travel management. So let's be reasonable and not talk about this as open or closed. Let's discuss this as a defined democratic system that will have exceptions that have and will always need to be handled. With these new tools we will better be able to do so.

Stay tuned to hear how these new systems do and don’t yet work.