The Complete Guide to Online Booking ToolsBy Tom Riley
Online booking tools have evolved to streamline the entire travel process by providing traveler support, offering discounts, introducing online expensing, and more.
Online booking tools are internet-based systems which allow users to book flights, hotels, and car rentals.
Online booking tools rose to popularity in the early 2000s as the need for human travel agents was displaced by technology. Pioneers of online booking include KAYAK, Expedia, and Priceline.
Since the early 2000’s, even more online booking tool innovations have emerged.
Hopper, an app that analyzes billions of flight rates daily to predict how prices will change and advises you to either buy now or wait, was founded in 2007.
In 2013, Wheels Up sought to revolutionize private aviation by making it more accessible for individuals and companies.
In 2015, Lola.com entered the game by creating the easiest platform to book, manage and save money on corporate travel.
Needless to say, the rise of online booking tools has allowed many companies to enter the travel space and fight for their market share.
How do you use an online booking tool?
Online booking tools are typically easy to use thanks to intuitive interfaces and fast search engines.
Travelers can use the booking tool search engine to get a list of available accommodations, and then pick the option that best fits their needs. Once the traveler pays for the business trip, they receive a confirmation from the tool containing any necessary information.
What are the types of online booking tools?
There are a lot of different online booking tools on the market, and they are all a little different. In general, there are 5 different kinds of booking tools:
- Direct supplier websites
- Online travel agencies
- Online travel merchants
- Corporate travel booking tools
The first type of booking tool, and likely the most obvious, is a direct supplier website.
The second type of booking tool is an online travel agency.
Online agencies operate in the same way as old school brick-and-mortar travel agencies. The online agency presents users with a variety of travel options based on the user’s preferences and the agency’s inventory. Popular online travel agencies include Booking.com, Orbitz, and Priceline.
The third type of booking tool is online travel merchants.
Online merchants operate by purchasing different accommodations, such as flights, hotels, and rental cars, and then reselling them to travelers. One of the most popular online travel merchants is Expedia.
The fourth type of booking tool is a metasearch engine, which is also referred to as an aggregator.
Aggregator platforms simply take your query (ie. hotels in New York City for next weekend) and then searches hundreds of travel sites at once to find all of the different offers available.
The aggregator sites do not own any inventory, but rather just provide a service for customers to find the perfect option. One of the most popular aggregator sites for travel is Kayak.com.
Lastly, there are online Corporate Booking Tools (CBTs) which are focused on serving businesses. They help businesses with travel management in three different ways.
- Booking: CBTs empower business travelers to book their own trips using simple booking software.
- Managing: CBTs assist travel agents and managers with travel management by automating travel policies and expensing.
- Reporting: CBTs help finance professionals get better control over travel spending.
When it comes to the different CBTs on the market, they target two different types of businesses:
- Large enterprises
- Small to medium sized businesses
One example of a CBT that services large enterprise businesses is SAP Concur Travel. SAP Concur services multinational firms such as Salesforce, Kelloggs, and Uber.
Benefits of an Online Booking Tool
One of the greatest benefits of online booking tools is that scheduling travel is possible 24/7/365.
Travelers can access booking services anytime and anywhere, without having to rely on a travel agent’s availability. This makes online booking software quicker and easier than the human travel agent equivalent.
Another benefit of online booking solutions is that they typically give travelers a larger inventory of travel options to choose from.
This is important because offline travel agencies usually only have relationships with certain brands, which limits the number of offerings for travelers. By opting for an online solution, travelers will get the variety of options they need.
Travelers stay more organized when using an online booking tool because all of their travel data is stored in one place.
They do not need to load up one website to see their flight details, another for the hotel reservation, and a third for car rental.
What kinds of companies can benefit from using an online booking tool?
All companies benefit from using an online booking tool, whether they are small startups or large multinationals. The cost of unmanaged travel is high, so having a corporate travel booking tool is essential.
Companies benefit from having online booking tools because they create a centralized hub for booking accommodations and managing travel expense, which helps keep everything organized.
Other benefits of managed corporate travel range from increased efficiency and larger savings to advanced insight access and 24/7 expert support.
How can online booking tools help companies reduce travel costs?
Online booking tools can help companies reduce travel costs in several different ways by improving travel management.
- Online booking tools offer travel managers the ability to fully integrate their travel policy directly into the booking tool.
This saves companies money because policy compliance increases when it is directly embedded in the booking software being used.
- Some online booking tools have strategic partnerships that allow them to offer negotiated rates to customers.
For example, Lola.com has an exclusive partnership with American Express Global Business Travel.
While typically only large enterprises would have access to GBT discounted rates, this partnership makes those discounts available for small to medium sized businesses through Lola.com.
- Online booking tools usually offer an overview dashboard which allows travel managers to easily view the spending behavior of different departments and employees.
These tools give insight into which departments and employees are saving money, and which are overspending. With these powerful insights, managers can guide employees to book in policy.
How to Choose an Online Booking Tool for Corporate Travel
When it comes to choosing a corporate travel tool, it is important to do your research. Here are our recommendations:
Audit your current strategy - Understand what is and what isn’t working with your current travel program. Common problems include:
- Lack of customer support
- Lack of travel satisfaction
- Difficulty enforcing a travel policy
- Tedious back-and-forth between business travelers and travel managers
- Difficulty tracking and analyzing spending
- Expensive fees charged for each booking made
Make your values clear. You want to establish the principles that matter most for your business’ travel going forward.
Companies will vary regarding their principles because every business has a different number of business travelers, differing business trips, and varying budgets.
The most common things companies look for in travel solutions are
- Their ability to service the full company
- The price of the solution itself.
There are many other things that a business should look for such as an easy to use website and app, automatic report creation, integration with expensing tools, and free 24/7 expert support.
Do your research. Research the different travel solutions available for your business to check if they fit into your criteria.
First, look at the most important things such as size capability and cost. Then begin looking at the more granular details.
Ask questions. Once you have narrowed down your list, you should reach out to the companies to get a demo of the software.
If you believe that you have found the right platform, then go ahead and sign up.
Get started. Implement the software - Once you have decided on the corporate travel platform, you’ll have to begin implementing it.
Corporate travel management companies typically offer on-boarding webinars and a customer success manager to make sure you and your team get set up quickly.
Best Online Booking Tools for Business Travel
When it comes to finding the top-rated online booking tool for business travel, there are several different software review sites you should be looking at.
First is Capterra which is an online peer review site that aims to help businesses find software solutions for almost every process of a business. Each software solution on Capterra is rated out of 5 stars for the overall experience, ease of use, and customer service.
Another online review site to analyze business travel software is TrustPilot, which asks customers to rate the overall software out of 5 stars.
Lastly, there is TrustRadius, which ranks software on a scale of 1-10 stars.
What makes a good online booking tool for business travel?
The best online tool for business travel is one that makes it easy to book, manage, report, and save on business travel.
Here are some of the specific features that make a corporate travel management tool great:
Easy to use website and app - The best travel solution is one that travelers want to use.
It is important to make sure the travel solution you decide on has a clean user interface and fast search engine so that corporate travelers will enjoy using it.
Access to preferred rates - Online booking tools should always be saving companies money rather than making travel more expensive.
You’ll want to look for a corporate travel solution that offers negotiated fares through industry partnerships and automated travel policies.
Free 24/7 Expert Support - It is essential to use a corporate travel tool which offers expert support because it will ensure that your business travelers will always be covered.
Free support not only helps your travelers, but it also allows travel managers to not have to provide support, giving them freedom to focus on more important tasks.
Customized Travel Policy - The ability to set up a custom travel policy within your corporate travel software is essential.
This helps travelers to book travel easily because they can see what options are in/out of policy without needing to ask their travel manager. This also saves travel managers time because they do not have to answer questions regarding what the policy rules are.
Integration with Expense tools - Expensing has historically been one of the biggest hassles of managing T&E.
Luckily there are new companies, like Expensify, which make expensing super simple. It is wise to choose a travel software that implements with an online expensing tool, like Expensify, because it will make managing business travel that much easier.
Artificial Intelligence - Artificial intelligence can save users time by making repetitive actions automatic.
For example, Lola.com uses AI to learn traveler preferences and show them the most relevant results first. This makes the booking process for travelers easy and fast.
Report Creation - The best corporate travel tools allow for automatic report creation so managers do not have to create them manually.
These reports will allow managers to easily export their travel activity and spending in different areas to get a full overview. These reports can then be shared with the team and archived for easy lookup.
What online booking tools are the simplest to use?
The mission of Lola.com is to simplify business travel - and make it enjoyable - with modern, easy to use tools for those who are on the road most.
Lola.com has been able to do this by having a modern UI that makes it easier than ever to book, manage, and report on corporate travel.
Our expert travel consultants are on 24/7 to solve any travel problems that may arise.
Lola.com is constantly updating the platform to make sure it continues to be the simplest to use. User experience is always at the core of any changes made, so ease of use will always remain a top priority for Lola.com.