The Online Booking Experience in 2019

What you can expect as a traveler, travel arranger and travel manager.

We may have just celebrated the Chinese New Year, but in business travel terms 2019 has been deemed the year of the ‘optimist’. The newest generation of business travelers are embracing the industry’s growing potential, viewing the opportunity to travel for work not as a perk, but a pre-requisite. With so much importance placed on travel, it’s not surprising that in 2019 one third of businesses have increased their corporate travel budgets1, and now the pressure is on Travel Management Companies (TMCs) to step-up to the mark.

With key industry reports showing that machine learning (ML), NDC and GDPR will have a significant impact on the industry in 2019, we can start to predict what the OBT experience will shape up to be in the year ahead.

Below we discuss some of the biggest impacts for travelers, travel arrangers and travel managers.


Multimodal travel apps

The pocket-sized equivalent of OBTs, TMC travel apps, will be in high demand in 2019 as travelers and their bookers seek more seamless business travel experiences. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) allows for an end-to-end booking experience, from booking travel to expense reporting. The demand for MaaS and multimodal apps will see increased functionality in TMC travel apps such as allowing users to check-in to flights, access their boarding passes, be alerted of gate changes, access lounge passes and search for directions.

Travel Arrangers

Consumerization through NDC

In 2019, the corporate travel industry will see a significant shift to a higher level of consumerization, with customers demanding more seamless access to better travel content. In a fight to be ahead of the competition, TMCs are starting to engage key industry suppliers to incorporate their New Distribution Capability (NDC), a technology that enables airlines to provide offers and products that have previously been unique to the leisure industry. While airline content will remain at the forefront, greater opportunity to reduce travel program leakage will evolve through adopting NDC content from hotels, a shift that leading TMCs have foreseen and embraced from the get go. With increased personalization through dynamic and customized content, it is important that businesses adopt an OBT that allows them to capture all booking data to ensure traveler safety and compliance.

UX / Voice search

A side effect of increased consumerization is the demand for a richer user experience through an enhanced OBT interface. TMCs will adopt a more ‘retail’ look and feel, with basket functionality, multi-transit comparison (e.g. rail versus flight) and automatic dual single search, meaning customers can easily select departing and arriving flights at their preferred times on different carriers, without having to make separate bookings.

Voice-search is one feature likely to make a bigger appearance in OBTs this year, while corporate chat bots will remain to assist with smaller tasks such as checking itineraries, researching travel options and completing expense reports. Facial recognition and fingerprint scanning are two methods TMCs can adopt within their OBTs to improve data security and user experience, especially in regard to virtual payments.

Travel Managers

Reducing Error with Machine Learning

Further development in machine learning (ML) will have significant impact on the bottom line when it comes to corporate travel in 2019. With access to unique data driven insights, ML can reduce human error by identifying patterns and alerting travel managers of any anomalies before the bookings are made, saving time and money on amending bookings afterwards. TMCs will need to ensure their OBTs can handle the processing power required by such advanced technology.

Data privacy – GDPR

While data collection for machine learning is on the increase, the introduction of GDPR policy has provided significant implications for TMCs in the development of their products and the ways in which they use this data. The challenge of delivering increased personalization and increased data protection will encourage more discussion and collaboration within the industry in 2019.

Bespoke offerings for SMEs

The small to medium enterprise (SME) market is the largest business sector many global markets, and travel management companies are starting to realize the potential this market offers. While many SMEs may not recognize the need (or justify the cost) for a full-service TMC, they are the perfect candidate for a fully automated online booking tool and as a result many more SME-focused products will make an appearance in 2019. Offering perks such discounted corporate rates and basic reporting, travel managers will be able to access end-to-end booking functionality and policy integration with offline support as required.

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