Off-channel booking capture provider Traxo and price assurance specialist Smart Hotel Rate have teamed up for a new service to automatically ensure corporate hotel rates are applied to reservations made directly with preferred hotels, the companies announced.
The service, which the companies describe as a “first-of-its-kind” solution, combines Traxo’s email reservation parsing capabilities—which power its previously existing off-channel booking-capture tool—with the price assurance platform of Smart Hotel Rate. Launched in 2019 by New York City-based business travel technology startup Ansero Inc., Smart Hotel Rate compares a travel buyer’s negotiated rates and amenities for a given supplier with actual bookings to determine if the offered rate was correct.
For in-channel bookings, Smart Hotel Rate gleans that booking data from global distribution systems, with permission from the corporate client. But that method doesn’t capture out-of-channel bookings, which is where Traxo comes in.
When a traveler booking directly with a hotel receives a confirmation email, Traxo parses that email and sends the relevant data to Smart Hotel Rate, which validates the rate against the negotiated terms. If a discrepancy is found, Smart Hotel Rate alerts the hotel, which corrects the rate and sends a new confirmation email, beginning the cycle anew. (Traxo also forwards booking data to the corporate client’s duty-of-care provider.)
Ensuring negotiated hotel rates are loaded properly and offered during booking is a longstanding and time-consuming issue for corporate travel buyers, even within the context of in-channel bookings. While automated rate assurance solutions do exist, the majority operate through corporates’ preferred online booking tools, meaning direct bookings can slip through the cracks.
That disconnect leaves savings on the table for many companies; a study by DVI found that average hotel leakage rates in 2019 approached 50 percent of overall category spend. And discrepancies sometimes aren’t discovered until well after the fact, when the traveler submits an expense report and the booked rate can be compared with the negotiated rate. Discrepancies must then be sorted out manually with the hotel.
By automating that process and looking to ensure direct-booked rates are correct on the front end, the combination of Traxo’s and Smart Hotel Rate’s services addresses those problems, according to the companies. Additionally, the service could provide more accurate visibility into room nights booked with a given supplier—data that buyers can then leverage in future hotel sourcing negotiations, leading to further savings, they said.
The service is offered to mutual clients at no additional charge, and no direct integration with hotels is required, the companies said.
As travel re-emerges from its Covid-19-induced deep-freeze, it remains to be seen what effect the pandemic will have on off-channel booking behavior as a whole. Some companies plan to implement pre-trip approvalmandates—or already have done so—and hygiene and safety concerns may drive travelers themselves to be more careful about adhering to their companies’ preferred programs, at least at first.
On the other hand, the pandemic’s effect on many companies’ bottom line in many cases has led to more flexibility around direct booking, according to Traxo CEO Andres Fabris.
“With travel budgets being seriously cut back, companies are actually opening up more booking channels so employees can get the best rates with minimal transaction fees,” Fabris said. “So, we’re seeing a move toward hybrid programs that embrace both TMC and supplier-direct channels. We anticipate that hotel … direct bookings will continue to hover around 50 percent for the foreseeable future.”
Smart Hotel Rate co-CEO John Packel added that, as travel resumes, it will be more vital than ever for travel managers to keep tabs on traveling employees, regardless of what booking channel they use.
“The pandemic has had massive impacts, but we expect the rationale for some travelers to book hotels directly will remain strong,” said Packel. “And further, increased duty-of-care requirements make it all the more imperative for companies to have visibility into 100 percent of bookings, and [the new service] helps ensure that duty-of-care coverage.”
Amid the increased premium on booking visibility industrywide, Dallas-based Traxo recently has been working to grow its distribution network by pairing its platform with those of other providers. Earlier this month, Traxo partnered with Sweden-based duty-of-care specialist Safeture to cross-sell the companies’ services to their respective clients. Traxo also rolled out a TMC-based distribution model in September 2020.