European Online Booking Penetration Nearly At N. American Levels


Nearly the same ratio of companies in Europe require travelers to book through corporate online tools as in North America, according to a study released on Monday by the NBTA Foundation, in association with Egencia.

The study included responses from 383 travel managers in 20 European countries and found that 61 percent require some or all trips to be booked online. That compares with 64 percent of North American travel managers in a similar study released by the NBTA Foundation in July 2010. The new study also found that 24 percent of represented European organizations have no corporate booking tool.

“The gap has certainly been closing over the last two to three years, so I wasn’t surprised by the European figure,” said NBTA Europe chief executive Paul Tilstone. “I was more surprised North America hasn’t gone beyond that. The question is: have online tools reached saturation point or is there more opportunity? I think it is the latter.”

Considering overall survey results, Tilstone said, “Some things have progressed in the last 18 months, but there are still opportunities for people to get a better hold of their policy.” Examples he cited include 64 percent of respondents only issuing verbal reprimands for noncompliance, while 14 percent warn travelers that they may not be reimbursed in whole or part. “If you are going to the trouble of creating a robust policy, then something more than a verbal sanction is appropriate, especially if one bears in mind duty of care responsibilities,” said Tilstone.

With duty of care in mind, Tilstone said the number of companies that have contingency plans for travel emergencies—62 percent of those surveyed—also is disappointingly low.

The study includes several other surprising findings. For example, 69 percent of represented European organizations pay for air tickets with lodge cards, and 26 percent receive direct bills from a travel management company. In North America, 50 percent of respondents use a central billing process.

In terms of class of service, 8 percent of companies in the European survey allow any first class flying, while 54 percent permit business class—although only 6 percent allow business class within Europe. For rail, 41 percent authorize premium class on some trips and 69 percent mandate economy on some trips.