Blog Image // Introducing the Modern Online Travel Agency for Business
Aug 20, 2021

Introducing the Modern Online Travel Agency for Business

Samantha Shankman

Business Travel ManagementReturn to blog

Casual contributors to the corporate travel and spend industry may have little exposure to online travel agencies (OTAs), but most people have undoubtedly used sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire, or Booking.com for package deals or last-minute vacation rentals. Online travel agencies are third-party booking engines that sell travel to consumers by listing flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Travelers purchase directly or are occasionally pushed to suppliers' own websites for direct booking.

The debut of online travel agencies in the late ‘90s and early 2000s reimagined what booking platforms could be, and allowed consumers to easily compare pricing and schedules, read peer reviews, save preferences, and access flexible cancellation policies. OTAs highlighted multiple travel products and service providers all in one place on the Internet, and often added value with vacation packages and extended check-in options. These engines revolutionized how consumers booked travel and shook up the staid distribution system.

While OTAs came with plenty of benefits, they also had some drawbacks—especially when it came to business travel. Early in the OTA revolution, as business travelers moved away from rigid traditional travel management companies, they discovered that the level of support and personalization was not the same. They traded experienced travel agents for the ease of online booking and spontaneity for security.

Online travel agents working for the major OTAs intended well but were unable to provide the customized support that business travelers once had when working with a single agency. The experience was like to booking a less-vetted Airbnb or B&B versus staying at a property where the hotelier knows your organization and has met dozens of your colleagues.

For corporate travel and spend programs, the need for a new solution became clear. The outdated corporate travel agencies of the past hadn't kept up with business consumers' expectations. No employee, let alone executive, was going to sit on the phone for an hour to get support for a booking, nor were admins comfortable or capable of enforcing policy on a broad spectrum of unmanaged OTA sites. Despite the travel services and breadth of choice offered by online travel companies like Hotels.com or Expedia.com, the sites could not be trusted by an organization managing business travel on a global scale.

These brand names also had a billboard effect similar to social media, which is why employees with previous travel experience would often abandon their provided travel management company to book their next trip with a consumer OTA. But ultimately, there was no way to track policy, maintain duty of care, provide adequate agent support, or communicate with travelers.

Fast forward to today; the pandemic has pushed an already divided landscape even further. What's emerged is an even stronger argument for why the approach at TripActions works so well.

TripActions combines the elegant UX and freedom of choice provided by the Expedia Groups and Agodas of the world and intuitively combines them with policy and support requirements needed to meet global corporations' travel needs.

In addition to sourcing content from direct suppliers and GDSs, TripActions also incorporates all the inventory from consumer online travel agencies to ensure that travelers have the options they are accustomed to on consumer travel websites—whether that’s for airfare or hotel bookings. It then accounts for each organization's specific travel program to ensure that employees are seeing all the options through the lens of policy.

In fact, TripActions is the only cloud-based, end-to-end global travel and spend management solution that includes online booking, 24/7/365 expert travel agent service, and expense management in a single global platform. Through its modern technology, TripActions increases traveler satisfaction and adoption, drives safety and compliance, and makes T&E programs more efficient and cost-effective. Finance and HR leaders gain invaluable insights with real-time data and control over spend. More than 5,000 companies—including nearly 500 that have joined since the onset of COVID-19—recognize the mission-critical importance of working with a trusted T&E partner and have chosen TripActions.

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