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One of the most controversial topics for travel managers over the years has been supplier-direct bookings (SDBs). Also referred to as open booking, invisible spend, out of system, non-compliant, etc.
Certainly, pre-pandemic, the number of SDBs was growing at a continual pace due to the personalization of travel. Suppliers are getting on board with their "book direct low-price guarantees" and applying extra fees for not booking directly on their websites.
Suppliers don't just want to go B2B but rather the next phase: B2T – business to traveler.
While COVID was the great flattening across a vast portion of the global travel industry for 2020 into 2021, it ushered in our resilience and drove our creativity and adaptability. The truth is, we as an industry, as a global community, will come out of this stronger than ever before. And with that, I firmly believe SDBs will continue to increase.
So why do I think this will be the case?
It isn't just my opinion; instead, I hear this from multiple travel managers of major corporations. I am also reading this in articles and hearing this in travel industry summits and travel forums.
Post-pandemic travel is demanding that traveler flexibility be afforded our travel communities. The growing number of SDBs we are seeing aligns with survey after survey that highlight travelers' desires for more freedom of choice and the flexibility to choose the travel supplier they feel most comfortable with from a health and safety standpoint.
Travel communities have become emboldened for their greater good and not just that of the company. Travelers' personalization will be first and foremost, before cost and even over supplier relationships.
As I have said many times over the years – transparency equals compliance. It's about obtaining "true transparency" for all bookings taking place across a travel program, irrespective of the source.
This is where SAP Concur solutions – likeConcur TripLink– play a vital role in providing the end-to-end transparency that travel managers need moving forward. If you can see what travelers are doing, pre, during, and post travel, you can take corrective actions as necessary. Taking control of SDBs is key to paving a pathway to travel program compliance.
The first step in dealing with realities is acceptance.
SDBs are not a sign of failure of a travel program, but more so the reality of trust and empowerment in one's travel community.
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