Off-channel booking capture technology Traxo has partnered with Plano, Tex.-based Business Travel Performance Automation to create a hotel program automation and performance platform that provides visibility into total hotel spend, both inside and outside corporate preferred channels. The result, the partners said, is a platform that not only audits and measures program performance for in-channel hotel bookings but also analyzes off-channel bookings to optimize program savings in real time and, ultimately, automate the hotel request-for-proposals process based on total hotel volume.
BTP founder and platform architect Fernando Avila has focused on travel program data since the 1980s, but turned his energy toward optimizing hotel programs for nearly two decades. “Every data element brings value,” he told BTN, ticking off several elements in the current BTP platform like rate code, room type, pre- and post-trip data, market conditions and included amenities. But, he said, without understanding the full scope of their volume, companies can’t truly optimize their programs, and they haven’t been able to optimize in real time.
Bringing Traxo into the picture changes the hotel program calculous in a critical way. The off-channel data-capture tool brings outlier bookings into the BTP platform in real time, at which point BTP scrubs every passenger name record against more than 1,000 algorithms to determine whether the corporate rate is utilized, how the corporate rate compares to day-of-booking market rates, room type, amenities and dozens of other factors to determine program compliance prior to travel. The tool then provides a corrective action recommendation to the travel manager via a self-service dashboard, with detailed reporting for each noncompliant transaction, as well as program-level recommendations—such as whether to extend an RFP to a new hotel partner or renegotiate with an existing partner—as booking patterns and market rates change over time.
The diagnostic functionality produces a score from 0 percent to 100 percent to communicate how much of the total savings opportunity the program is leveraging. It then automates the improvement process.
In some cases, said BTP CEO Bruce Yoxsimer, a co-founder of GetThere who joined BTP in November, the corrective action may be as simple as getting a single hotel booking back into the preferred channel prior to executing the trip. “We can see if a booking in a non-designated channel is $154 and contracted in-channel is $147. That’s a straightforward correction that if you multiply out over 4,000 bookings, you immediately realize savings,” he said. But the real transformative features of BTP, he emphasized, lie in the RFP automation capabilities.
Since the platform produces an ongoing bid list, the next logical step for BTP was to facilitate those bids based on market conditions, client volume, required amenities and other factors. Upon implementation, said Yoxsimer, clients may get a bid or re-bid list for 100 or more hotels. Given parameters set by each customer, the platform can automatically send those RFPs to vetted property contacts, along with limited customer data that will verify to the property the value of doing business with that corporate client.
On the hotel side, BTP provides a response form for the property to adjust amenity inclusions and either accept or reject the rate.
The hotels “are delivered a set of credentials—a simple list of the negotiations,” said Yoxsimer. “You don’t have to be a super-seasoned revenue manager to look at an RFP here. It comes with validation on [the corporate’s] travel data, so it tells the revenue manager who the company is, their historical hotel volume, the requested rate versus current public rate. [The property] can jump in and adjust the four most commonly requested amenities [breakfast, transfers, Wi-Fi and gym]. … Anyone can do it if they understand the trigger points, and the parameters are all adjustable: fixed or dynamic rate, last room availability, etc. [The hotels] submit that back to BTP, and once it’s submitted, we analyze this to see if we have a handshake.” Avila pointed out that the company provides all rate-loading instructions and then audits every transaction against rate.
The partners said they are launching the tool at a time when demand for labor efficiency and savings requirements are at a critical point for suppliers and buyers. “The next step is to automate the hotel side for properties that know their trigger points, so they can set their parameters in the tool and maybe require a click for approval—or, eventually, they might just want to let the machines talk to each other,” Yoxsimer said.
On the buyer side, said Traxo CEO Andres Fabris, “There’s a huge focus on return on investment on travel and travel management activities. Companies are looking for safety and savings. That’s been loud and clear from the field.”
Avila emphasized the additional value that full volume, real-time visibility brings to the table. “Without that, you can only address half of the program,” he said, referring to average in-channel hotel booking compliance, which hovers around 50 percent for most companies.
“There are so many other things that corporate travel managers need to be doing, not spending four months making a hotel bid list and filling out RFPs,” said Yoxsimer. “This tool will allow travel managers to spend time on those critical issues—like duty of care—that are so important right now.”
BTP has signed its first travel management company contract and has six pilot companies in its pipeline.