Best of Both Worlds

Offline or online, or both? Wings provides a blend of both to satisfy all needs across its customer portfolio.

No one can doubt that booking travel today is a seamless process, be it by self-booking tool or by human interaction offline. Much of the early resistance to self-booking tools has largely been eradicated by the tools becoming far more user friendly and providing much richer content, but at their core they can still only deal with simple, point-to-point itineraries.

Any complex, multi-sector journeys is best dealt with by experienced travel consultants who understand the vagaries of airline ticketing, varying minimum connecting times at airports and the ramifications of different time zones.

Wings provides a blend of offline and online booking options so they cover all the travel needs for clients, be that at a national, regional or global level. ”We offer the best of both worlds,” sums up Diana Pepe of Wings Travel Management in Norway. “A lot of TMCs are pushing on the technology but we don’t want to give up the offline service.

“We sit on 30 years’ knowledge of the travel market and that’s something a portal won’t be able to use when a flight is cancelled or the next ash cloud disrupts everything. You don’t want to be stuck in an automated process then. Our staff know which airport will be the quickest to get you home to your family.”

Wings can seamlessly and efficiently arrange the necessary logistics and adapt to last-minute changes with any workarounds, which is characteristic of many oil and gas clients.

For customers with simple, point-to-point itineraries, Wings provides both Cytric and AeTM/ACT (the latter for South Africa only), from Amadeus and the Concur self-booking tools.

In Diana’s region in Norway – which has a mix of largely oil and gas customers – some 20% utilise the Cytric self-booking tool, which provides rich content across hotel, car and airline providers, including a direct connect to low-cost carriers.

In South Africa, ACT has been offered to clients for the last year and Wings has several active clients using the tool, largely for domestic travel and booking up to 70% of their travel. Adoption levels are at a very respectable 60-80%.

Self-booking tools provide cost control through corporate travel policies being built into the tool, the ability to negotiate better rates with suppliers due to visibility of where the money is being spent, the ability to comply with duty of care and arguably, offer true visibility into the booking and the expense system, helping to eradicate errors and fraud.

If compliance is an issue then tactical messaging can be uploaded onto the tool to guide travellers into making the right buying decisions.

The latest generation of self-booking tools offer multi-destination capability such as Aberdeen-Amsterdam–Paris- Aberdeen, or flying into one US city and out from another, but many travellers lack booking confidence to try these types of itineraries out.

Technophobes need not worry as Wings can always complete a booking offline that was started on a self-booking tool. It may be a hybrid process but as long as it works, Wings is happy to provide a solution.

SBTs in the vanguard of the market also include an expense module to make them fully end-to-end. Wings offers two key providers – Concur and Amadeus/Cytric. With clients wanting T & E combined, it means that each travel booking automatically becomes an expense.

Wings has developed its business to manage the latest online solutions so, for example, in the US, clients are offered Concur as a global platform which incorporates an expense portal. Today, about half of Wings’ US clients have implemented it.

“In the US the mobile world has taken off so much that we have to be prepared with an online solution,” explains Chris Martin, VP – Business Development, Americas. “Travellers want to book from their cellphone or their car rather than call somebody.

“We check that clients are going to get the most return on investment with the tool and whether they have a workforce that is technologically savvy. An older workforce, for example, is reluctant to use online.

“There are so many booking tools out there and there are pros and cons to each so you have to peel back the onion and find out if it will fit into your company culture, for example, and what markets you’re in.

“Either way, self booking tools offer
a blend of cost and convenience and we offer the tool that is the right fit for the client as our system will talk to any tool.”

One Wings client enjoying the benefits of T&E is oil and gas client Forum Energy Technologies (F-E-T). Director of Procurement, John Keck was keen to retain Concur when he switched TMCs 18 months ago, “to make for an easier transition and not to lose any resident knowledge.” The prospect of training staff on a new tool was a step too far.

He also wanted a TMC who would take charge of the Concur relationship so that he only needed to have one conversation and thereby improve workflows. As a procurement manager looking to spend less than 10% of his time on the travel category, Keck needed a TMC who would take tactical travel actions off his hands. “That was a really big thing for Forum” he says. “We don’t have a lot of time to spend on travel.”

Moreover, he was keen to set up Concur differently than it had been with the incumbent TMC, which had restricted half a dozen fare classes. “I had a lot of concern from the field that we were not seeing the best rates on Concur, but now they show up on the system so we’re now saving 4-5% on air fares – which on an annual US$5m spend is significant – and travellers are finding cheaper fares less frequently outside of the system.”

A hefty 80% of F-E-Ts travel is able to be booked online, satisfying the majority of domestic journeys the company’s sales, operations and logistics staff make to the 30 sites it operates across North America. This accounts for some 70% of the volume of travel.

The remaining 20% of bookings are dealt with by Wings’ offline team, who are taking complex, multi-country trips to the likes of China, India, Taiwan, Korea and the Middle East.

Online booking tools are an integral part of the overall offering from Wings but it is also fully aware that not all travel is simple point-to-point and that a blended service – offering online and offline – serves their clients best.

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