Online booking of travel is one of the earliest business applications to come out of the internet explosion and is clearly one of the most successful. There are so many options when it comes to booking travel online, it is a wonder how anyone can keep them all straight. There are new booking tools coming online all the time. What makes one different from another, and when should I use one versus another? There are two different kinds of travel, and two different kinds of sites to consider. Leisure travel bookings have certainly done very well on the internet, but this article will focus on the many options for corporate booking online and what you should look for if given the task of finding the right solution for your company.First of all, you certainly have the option of going directly to an airline website to complete your reservation. This is a great way to do it in certain circumstances. You may be familiar with the flight you need and know exactly what the fare should be from previous experience. Also, the airline websites sometimes offer mileage bonuses for booking online, and there is no fee in most cases for booking directly on the airline site. Sounds great, right? But actually there are many shortcomings by going directly with the airline websites. You are likely getting the lowest fare available for that airline, but you will usually have better options if you look at many airlines simultaneously. By going with a solution that looks at all airlines at once, you’ll guard against a traveler using their preferred airline for the mileage benefits without regard for price. What you will pay in booking fees with one of these solutions will likely be more than made up for by the lower fares you will find on multiple airline searches. Booking sites like Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia are examples of this kind of travel search engine.Most people are familiar with these websites for leisure travel, but there are also business travel divisions of these companies with excellent alternate websites specifically designed for business travel use. What can you expect from a business travel site that differs from the leisure sites? You will get multiple traveler profile information stored on the site, as well as corporate reporting capability. You will see the ability for a travel coordinator to book travel for someone else, using a variety of credit cards. There will be some additional business friendly options, including options to book a car and/or hotel along with the air reservation. One of the best reasons to utilize an online system like this is that you can take care of the entire business trip in one shot instead of visiting multiple sites or making additional phone calls. So what exactly should you be looking for in a corporate travel online system? Let me give you my thoughts on the biggest issues.Can it be customized? This is a must for any company that really wants to get a handle on the travel program. There should be the ability to input corporate contracts for negotiated airfare (with detail down to the market or fare class level). This is also crucial for car contracts and individual and chain-wide hotel contracts. The reason this is so important is two-fold. First, your travelers need access to the absolute lowest fares and rates possible. Equally important but often overlooked, is the fact that in order to keep your current contracts, you need to perform to certain standards. If you need to drive 35% of your business to American Airlines, for example, you need to ensure that your online booking tool will help drive volume in the appropriate direction. This also holds true for the number of room nights you have agreed to with your hotel partners. Some of the newest online tools will automatically drive the volume to the right places based upon your input. While many are not this sophisticated, there are still ways to remind travelers of their corporate obligations as they are booking through pop-up reminders, banner headlines, etc.Can it be integrated and branded? For many companies this is an important way to drive adoption of the tool. If you can brand the site with your logo and other design options, your travelers will be more likely to use the product. Brand identity is important both inside and outside your organization. Also, if you have a corporate intranet that travelers are used to using on a daily basis, you should be able to integrate the system using a Single Sign On application so users can access travel booking internally without having to remember another password for another system.What kind of reporting can be generated? If the whole idea of an online system is to better track traveler activity and spending, you need to be sure the available reporting meets your needs. Many corporate systems may offer some baseline reporting, but it probably won’t be anything close to what you are used to, especially if you’re working with a Travel Management Company that customizes their reports to your specifications. Make sure you have access to the information you need as it’s being generated. What kind of backup support it offered? This is perhaps the most critical issue you’ll come up against. The larger online systems like Travelocity and Expedia have call centers to back you up in emergencies. But do you need a better level of service in these situations? There are many reasons to utilize a Travel Management Company’s online system instead of going with a larger, better marketed company. If you partner with a TMC that offers an online system, you can get the support you need not only for complex reservations and emergency situations, but you’ll also get better support in programming your system. Which brings us to another area of importance.Who is responsible for programming the site? Travel program changes happen all the time. You’ll have travelers coming in to the company and leaving. Your contracts, if you have them, will be renewed and canceled. Your company policy will change, and it’s different for different level of employee. In all these changes, your online booking system will also change. When these changes happen, who is responsible for updating your system? If it’s left up to you, do you have anyone that is trained in how to make the changes you need? If it is the TMC’s responsibility, how quickly can they implement the changes? And remember, an online booking site is only as good as it is programmed, no matter which way you go. So who takes responsibility for programming errors?Who takes care of training users? Just as a system is only as good as it’s programmed, travelers can only benefit from the system insofar as they’re properly trained. Most of your travelers are likely familiar with online booking either for personal travel or in previous business travel, so it shouldn’t be difficult to train them on a basic level. However, each site that you investigate will have different strengths and weaknesses that travelers need to know about. Online training can be effective, but personal training is even better. Is your representation at the company local or willing to send a trainer to your location(s) for more in-depth training? This goes for both end user travelers, travel coordinators booking for others, and anyone that needs to know programming of your site.
It’s tough to comprehend spending another dime considering the exorbitant expenses incurred in planning the wedding of your dreams, but after months of vigorous planning, you will want to get away and spend some alone-time with your spouse. You can plan your honeymoon vacation by getting the help of a travel agent and let them do all the work so that you can relax and enjoy your honeymoon travel. There are several benefits in selecting a travel agent for planning your honeymoon travel. Some of them are stated below:Finest days to take a trip – Travel agents book tons of vacations every year and they know what the finest days to travel are from the viewpoint of one’s budget as well as from the standpoint of time. If you are able to provide the agent with some flexibility in travel dates, they can get the least expensive and most stress-free choices for your honeymoon travel.Save money on your honeymoon vacation – When you select a travel agent to book your honeymoon vacation they will get the best discounts on flights and hotels since travel agencies can buy tickets in bulk and pass these savings on to you.Saves a ton of work when planning your honeymoon vacation – You can save hours of time since the agent will be the one to deal with the booking and preparations of your honeymoon vacation. You just need to tell them where, when and why.A travel agency can provide answers to any questions about documents need for honeymoon vacation- An individual’s agent knows essential closing dates and necessities for passports, etc. They will help direct you through the process.A travel agent can provide you with some insider perks for honeymoon vacation- Since travel agents are acquainted with the right questions to ask, they may be capable of coming up with offers that the common person would never come across on their own.Travel agents know about desirable destinations – As agents usually travel a lot themselves, it is very possible that they have been to most of the typical honeymoon vacation destinations. If they haven’t themselves, probabilities are that someone in their office has. This will permit them to answer questions you may have about the best restaurants and public transit for your selected honeymoon vacation destination.Travel agents help deal with any problems that arise if changes occur to your itinerary -If an individual changes their honeymoon vacation plans for any cause, they only need to make one phone call. A person will call their travel agent and then the travel agent will have to make the dozens of phone calls needed to recreate the honeymoon vacation plans.Travel agents will give you one bill – When you decide to work with an agent, you will end up with one big bill to shell out and not a bunch of purchases with many receipts, confirmations, etc. Several travel agencies will offer a person with recompense plans. Selecting to work with a travel agent can not only lessen the constant worry when it comes to the planning of your honeymoon travel, but can also save you money as well as time.
Travel Pre Internet:I’ve been travelling for over 40 years – by thumb in my early days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and then my first old banger followed by newer old bangers to the beaches of the Costa Brava.My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me all over Europe and the UK before finding that a charter flight to Spain on an old ‘Connie’ could get me to the beaches and bars a lot quicker and allow more time to enjoy the local travel opportunities by horse and cart and the occasional bus and train.’Go West and Prosper’ seemed to be a good idea so instead of taking an 8 hour flight I took an 8 day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not trouble my travel plans. Some years later I crossed the pond again on a ship but this time it was 5 times bigger and I travelled in style on the QE2 and dined in the Queen’s Grill somewhat removed from my earlier experience. I highly recommend ocean voyages but cannot see myself on one of the modern cruise ships going from port to port with constant line-ups to get on and off to buy t-shirts. However, I have done 10 Windjammers and a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean which were all memorable (let’s hope Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). But I digress.I had read that Canada is a spectacular country, from sea to shining sea, and my entrance into the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and then heading west in an old Econoline van from the Great Lakes, across the Prairies to the Rocky Mountains before ending up whale watching off of the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island was a trip of wonder to a bloke from London. Today the scenery is still spectacular and the best way to go is still by road so rent or buy a car, motorhome or motorbike, take the train or tour bus but remember the maps, a fly rod, good boots and take your time.My favorite part of Canada / USA for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to hike the Chilkoot Trail in the steps of the goldseekers of 1898. The Northwest Territories to canoe the Nahannie River and the Yukon to drive from Dawson City to Chicken, Alaska. If you like the outdoors and can put up with a few bugs, cast a fly and scale a few hills or drive on endless dirt roads sharing the space with moose, caribou, elk, bears and eagles, then these are the places to put on your list. The pleasures and experiences in driving to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway or to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway or even the Canol Road can only be felt by doing them. I would have mentioned the Alaska Highway but now it is an easy drive unlike the aforementioned.Today the costs of driving these distances may mean that sharing the journey with others is required, but RVing or simply vanning and camping is a great way to see beyond the horizon. Some enroute adventures now need to be booked in advance whereas when I hiked Denali and the Chilkoot Pass it was just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and heading on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost considerations of lengthy flights or drives have to somehow be countered with more careful planning. In the days of reasonable gas prices I would not even consider the driving or flying costs and have driven to Key West from the northwest coast, down the west coast to the Baja and to the west coast from New York. I once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back using around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Before the oil and credit crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15,000 miles of spectacular scenery and with no consideration about the cost of gas. South America should be on your itinerary too! Some other memorable drives that may now require a mortgage with the gas companies include London to The Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the loneliness of the far north of Australia and the amazing coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Wave Rock.We tend to forget that the real cost of travelling is often less today than over the 40 years of my travels. In 1977 my round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 in 1977 dollars so today it is far cheaper to fly, even with the airlines gouging for fuel, extra baggage, no service and no pleasure. The ‘Big Mac’ method of price comparison as developed by The Economist newspaper gives us a good gauge for most expenditures of today compared to yesterday but my $1500 cost to get a private pilots licence in the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to today, but obviously not when using this Big Mac principle. Other travel costs are also far cheaper today but this should not mean that travellers should disregard the many methods of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved travel experiencesTravel Post-Internet:In my 40 years of travel I have had to use travel agents to make even the simplest of reservations and buy tickets, not even thinking to ask them if they had “been there, done that?” It was just a case of there being no other options to buying travel. Now we have unlimited choices and can seek out better travel agents, better prices, better selections and information about anywhere in the world for our travels – without even leaving home.The Internet now gives travellers ideas and options of Where to go, When to go, Why to go, What to do, Who to book with and How to save money and offset costs. We can search and find experts for every travel option. If we are comfortable with the Internet we no longer have to go to a travel agent to make reservations and buy tickets except to book with some of the larger travel companies that still produce glossy brochures and offer all inclusive packages or tours that only sell through the agency system. The Internet also allows those of us who are smart enough to know when to seek out a top travel agent with knowledge, experience and expertise (KEE skills) of destinations and activities about where to find them. There is no longer any need to only use our local agents when we can find one somewhere else in the world. When we do not need ‘the knowledge’ and can do it ourselves we simply surf the web so that we can book directly with tour and travel operators wherever we have decided to go.Some travel agents operate their own tours, some are both wholesale and retail, some limit consumer selection by only selling their ‘preferred’ suppliers and some have professional consultants with years of experience invested in gaining knowledge, experience and expertise and are worth their weight in gold to the savvy traveller. Beware though, as some are also called destination specialists and some of these designations merely require the agent to take a rudimentary test offered by tourism offices, destination marketing groups or even tour operators and in my opinion can harm the reputation of the travel industry. A specialist is not necessarily an expert.Travel is probably the most used commercial aspect of the Internet and if retail agents want to harness this exciting medium to offer ‘the knowledge’ and their ‘kee’ skills to a global audience, not just their local community, they must embrace the changes that are happening. Travellers now have the ability to seek answers to the 5 W’s of travel and the important ‘How to’ save money and offset costs by having information just a click away.And then it occurred to me that even internet travel prices often include a commission element even when sold directly to the consumer. If we book directly with operators we should not have to pay full retail prices as we are doing for ourselves what a retail agent would normally do for us. A dilemma for the operator is that to show a both a retail and a cost price option could deter many agents from selling the services as travellers could use an agent for free advice and book directly with the operator to get a ‘net of commission’ price. Obviously this two tier pricing is not often available but travellers who do not need advice should also not be penalized by retail pricing. A new way had to be found and I think I have found it!The need for fairer fare prices is why I developed the Top Travel Voucher program at The Top Travel Club and I even found a dot com for it. All travel selections on the site are at ‘net of commission’ prices for members who handle there own travel arrangements directly with the operators linked on the club website using our voucher program.I am inviting travel operators from around the world to join this program, from B&B’s, Motels, Hotels, Luxury Lodges, Eco Resorts, Beach Resorts and Tour and Adventure Operators who want to promote their products and services to travellers who are comfortable with direct bookings and reservations.I am also inviting Travel Agents with knowledge, experience and expertise of destinations and activities to showcase their skills to a global audience of travellers and to the members of this new travel club. I am leery of ‘specialist agents’ and only want experts to showcase their services.This opportunity is available to the travel trade at no cost except for them to offer net, wholesale or outlet prices to club members and visitors to the website using top travel vouchers. I believe this program offers fairer fare prices to direct-booking travellers. The operator would normally be paying commission anyway but now travellers get the savings because they make their own arrangements.The Top Travel Club opened in mid-April 2008 offering thousands of top travel vouchers for travel in over 70 countries with around 150 travel operators onboard. Every week we add more travel operators with more choices for members. Currently you can get savings on accommodations, adventure travel, boat charters, culinary tours, hike, bike and dive tours, auto and RV rentals fishing lodges and guides, safaris, vacation rentals, single travel, women only and dude ranches. Members get the vouchers free of charge by paying an annual membership fee and non-members can buy the vouchers on the internet at Top Travel Sites at deeply discounted prices to the face-value. The future growth will include restaurants, travel clothing, travel insurance and the opportunity to access air ticket consolidators who want to deal directly with consumers.The way I have travelled and the way I see travel is that consumers should have unlimited access to every travel opportunity with the ability to do their own due diligence or to find a professional who can offer quality advice and services at fair prices, and to find all of this without needing endless hours of searching.To find out more about the new way of cost offsets for travel please go to The Top Travel Club and my apologies for some of the spelling (traveller / traveler) but that is what I was taught. As long as we all understand the meaning, vive le difference!