May 18, 2024

ITM: Online booking tools not meeting buyer requirements

The vast majority (82%) of travel manager say their online booking tool does not currently meet all their requirements, according to an ITM ‘Pulse Check’.

Shared at ITM’s Empower Conference in Brighton today, the member survey found the main reasons for their dissatisfaction were lack of access to full airline content and low-cost carrier challenges, which are leading to direct bookings with airlines, increasing risk potential and lack of incident support.

Travel managers also cited poor user interface and information displays. 

Around 100 corporate travel buyers, managers and heads of travel, with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities, completed the ITM ‘Pulse Check’ survey.

Just over half (52%) believe that there will be a satisfactory solution to the content challenges with airlines, OBTs and TMCs within the next three to five years. But a significant 32% are unsure and 16% believe there won’t be a satisfactory solution.

Reflecting on the changing TMC landscape, 72% of buyers believe TMCs will continue to be the critical primary partner in their programme in the next five years but 19% are unsure.

Respondents were almost evenly split on whether they believe the TMC sector is adapting to changes in the distribution landscape, with 56% agreeing and 44% disagreeing. 

Comments from buyers on the TMC sector included the following:

  • Most of the big TMCs are intrinsically tied to the GDS and there is growing scepticism that this approach is the way forward
  • TMCs still need to adapt more quickly to provide solutions to the rapidly changing airline and hotel content distribution channels
  • The space is ripe for disruption – and new entrants or other eco-system partners could impact the TMC business model if they don’t evolve.

The survey also found the majority of respondents (79%) are under pressure to reduce the organisation’s business travel to meet carbon net zero targets, agreeing with the statement ‘I believe we will all have to travel less to meet carbon reduction targets’.

Asked how they feel about the year ahead for business travel, just over half of buyers (56%) said that they are on standby to ‘expect the unexpected’, 29% feel optimistic and 16% are concerned or anxious.

Scott Davies, CEO, ITM, said: “Distribution and access to content continue to be a major headache for buyers. But this is not an easy fix, so it’s not surprising to see that only half of buyers believe the industry will find a solution within the next three to five years.”

Commenting on the pressure to meet carbon net zero targets, he added: “Building responsible travel policies has been on buyers’ priority list for a while. However, there is an increasing recognition among buyers that they may need to take more decisive action to ensure that their organisation is on schedule to meet carbon targets and legislative requirements.

“Travelling with purpose and potentially taking fewer trips per person will inevitably be something that travel managers need to take a long hard look at within their programmes.”