As with many other trends and technologies reviewed in this study, fare tracking started in the consumer travel market (e.g. Hipmunk and Kayak for pre-booking tracking) before moving into managed travel. Here, the main use is post-booking tracking and rebooking if prices go down enough to warrant it. Starting from a fledgling technology launched in 2007 by Seattle-based Yapta and piloted by a few forward-thinking clients, price tracking and rebooking solutions have grown in popularity among corporate travel managers. Testifying to this success, numerous competitors have sprung up not only in the airfare space but also in hotel rates.
The idea behind fare tracking and rebooking solutions is simple: to monitor price fluctuations after a booking is made and alert travel counselors if a change in price is large enough to make rebooking worthwhile. This combination of automated technology and human intervention ensures that everything happens behind the scenes without disrupting travelers or their plans. Travelers keep the same travel arrangements while benefitting from lower prices (after deducting change fees). When designed for managed travel, these solutions take into account the company's program parameters to promote compliance.
In the United States, one of the best cost-savings opportunities is the 24-hour "void window" when air tickets can be changed or cancelled without penalty. If a booking is made on a Friday, this window is extended over the weekend, granting a few extra days.
Importantly, the system does not just look at airfares or room prices but the costs involved in changing arrangements, which can be high. Rebooking only takes place if savings are the net result. Detailed reporting highlights the exact amount saved per booking.
Considering that companies already negotiate significant savings through preferred supplier programs, this solution assures clients they are always getting the best rates — as long as they continue to meet their volume commitments on preferred prices.
The large majority of surveyed travel managers (81 percent) say fare tracking will make an impact over the next five years, with most predicting it will be high. This result is unsurprising when 62 percent of travel managers surveyed by CWT at the end of 2014 said they would be making a high priority of deploying fare tracking and rebooking solutions in 2015.16
Travel managers are also keenly aware of the impact flight disruptions can have on traveler stress and productivity, and they are looking for solutions that alert travelers and offer convenient rebooking to help them get back on track.
Following a successful client pilot, CWT is launching CWT Trip Disruption to assist travelers during their journeys. Scheduled to launch in the United States in the third quarter of 2015, this offering includes 24/7 live support. A dedicated team of expert counselors will proactively monitor travelers' itineraries and identify disruptions, such as cancellations, missed connections, diversions and delays, before offering support to travelers on the go. Any impacted travelers will receive an alert with a suggested solution or a dedicated number to reach a travel counselor. This kind of solution reassures both travelers and the companies that are responsible for their well-being during business trips, and helps remind travelers of the value of their managed travel program.
Overall, surveyed travel managers consider the impact of direct booking, or buying directly from travel suppliers, lower than average (see Figure 5 on Page 12). Having said that, the debate continues over open booking or new tools that bypass TMC booking channels, and the implications for managed travel as new technologies and systems evolve. In a previous report Where now for managed travel? "Rogue" spend, new booking technologies and the future of travel programs (2010), CWT conducted in-depth research about the issues associated with direct/open booking. These have not changed:
The study indicated that by implementing a latest-generation online booking tool combined with an itinerary management app, companies could continue to promote program compliance while picking up data on spend outside the authorized channels. At the moment, no other approach has proven to match the value of holistic end-to-end managed travel programs, which are still highly relevant given the challenges facing travel managers today. And while clients are monitoring developments in this arena, they have become more focused on other booking trends, such as fare tracking.
16 Source: CWT, Travel Management Priorities for 2015 (January 2015)