Magazine for Senior Financial Executives: Online travel sites go business class

Online travel sites go business class

Kate O’Sullivan

Web travel agencies are targeting business travelers and their cost-conscious managers, launching sites that pose yet another real threat to traditional travel agencies. Road warriors have been digging up alternative fares on their own for a few years, and such sites TI as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity are responding with services tailored to their demands, complete with features to help finance executives track spending down to the last jet-setting salesperson.

Expedia Corporate Travel, Orbitz for Business, and Travelocity Business all promise to help companies save money by using the Internet. With booking fees as low as $5, the Websites are significantly cheaper than bricks-and-mortar agencies, which charge anywhere from $25 to $60 for a telephone reservation. Each site also promises live customer service when a traveler needs it. A travel manager can customize his or her chosen site to highlight preferred airlines or hotels with which the company has negotiated discounted rates, but the sites also provide access to last-minute Web fares. In addition, trips that might be disallowed because they’re too expensive or because they involve an inconvenient airport can be flagged. When a traveler chooses a so-called out-of-policy flight, he or she can be prompted for a mason code, such as “traveling with a client.”

Terry Sullo, travel manager at Akamai Technology Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., says the company switched to Expedia Corporate Travel from an offline agency in August to help control costs. Sullo cites the real-time reporting feature as a key advantage to the online service. “I’m able to determine travel-policy compliance before the trip is taken,” she says. “After the trip, it’s too late.” She also receives reports that help her track how often travelers fly on a certain airline or stay in a particular hotel. Bob Cobuzzi, Akamai’s CFO, adds that employees can easily book their own travel on the site, saving administrative time. K.O’S.

TRIP CLICK Online corporate-travel sites.

Initiation Online Agent

Service fee fee fee

Expedia Corp. Travel $149 $5 $20

Orbitz for Business None $5 $15

Travelocity Business $149 $5 $20

SOURCE: COMPANY DATA

COPYRIGHT 2004 CFO Publishing Corp.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group