What is an OBT? [+ Why They Matter]
Once upon a time, if you wanted to book a trip, your only options were to speak to a travel agent, or contact hotels and airlines directly to book your business trips.
Of course, travel booking looks very different today! But while the influx of new booking websites has brought infinitely more convenience to our lives, it has also made it harder to narrow down the best choice for our individual needs.
Not sure where to turn to for the best business travel deals? Looking for a booking solution that won’t leave you high and dry if you run into trouble on your trip? Wondering what the real difference is between the plethora of online booking sites and mobile apps out there? We can help.
Read on for a full run-down of the wide world of travel booking tools.
What Are Online Booking Tools?
If you do a quick Google search of “cheapest hotels in New York,” chances are the first few results will be travel booking offers from online booking tools, or OBTs.
OBTs are an internet-based real-time solution for making travel arrangements, like hotels, flights and rental cars. They offer the benefit of allowing you to choose from many options without having to browse a bunch of different websites.
OBTs are helpful for individuals, organizations and travel managers. They can facilitate cheaper, faster, and more efficient travel bookings. They are usually self-service and generally give you a range of different booking options with side-by-side price comparisons to let you in on the best deals available.
OBTs are a broad category, and there are several different types out there. The main options available for booking corporate travel are listed below.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) include Expedia and Booking.com. These online platforms offer access to worldwide inventory, as well as package deals for flights, hotels and rental cars. While OTAs are a great option for consumer travel, they are not a corporate travel booking tool — which means no volume discounts or tools to help you manage your travel program.
Aggregators (also known as comparison sites or meta-sites) like Kayak or Travelocity simply search and compare pricing on a bunch of different OTAs at once. They’ll save you the hassle of repeating your search over and over, but they don’t offer many benefits or functionality beyond that.
Travel management companies (TMCs) function more like travel agencies in software form, offering booking options that are tailored to a company’s travel policies. TMCs provide plenty of practical benefits, but they come at a cost (charged either as booking fees or as an annual contract) that is unrealistic for almost all but the largest enterprise corporations.
Lodging performance networks (LPNs) are specific to lodging. This fairly new category focuses on building tech-driven solutions that benefit both business travelers and hotels. By driving value for both sides, LPNs like Hotel Engine can offer a free-to-use platform providing access to exclusively discounted hotel rates and lots of helpful tools for corporate travel management.
New to planning corporate getaways? Make sure you don’t miss a step, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Planning Business Travel Arrangements.
What to Look for When Choosing an OBT
There are plenty of OBTs out there, and they are not all created equal. Before you commit to using an OBT, it’s important that you have a clear idea of what you really want and need from a booking tool.
Is it most important to access the cheapest rates? To have the largest possible selection? Do you have one person that handles all the booking for your business, or do you want to empower individuals to book their own travel (without blowing up your budget)? These are a few questions to ask before you can identify the right OBT for your needs.
We recommend that you choose an OBT that will provide support when something goes wrong.
Travelers are subjected to many possible problems on their journeys — flights get delayed or canceled, hotel rooms get overbooked, etc. And if you booked through an OTA, your travelers might find themselves scrambling for solutions when something unexpected occurs. Instead, prioritize finding an OBT that provides a more dedicated approach to 24/7 assistance, such as Hotel Engine, where travelers can get the support they need without being re-routed overseas or experiencing a long hold time.
Getting the Best Deals with an OBT
Most OBTs offer pretty good deals, and because you can usually compare options, you can shop around for the best prices from a single platform. But some booking tools can provide savings that go beyond just what you shell out for your reservation.
Reward programs can really pay off for businesses, particularly those that book a lot of travel. Unfortunately, if OBTs offer reward programs, they often make you choose between earning points on their platform or earning brand-specific loyalty rewards. Most businesses that frequently book travel have rewards accounts with major hotel chains or airlines, and would potentially miss out on major savings by going with the wrong OBT.
Hotel Engine is one of the few options in the business that allows you to rack up rewards specific to their platform (which can then be cashed in toward discounted or free stays) while also earning brand loyalty points. Add in points earned from a travel credit card, and you’re triple-dipping on rewards with every booking!
The OBT Bottom Line
Did you know that in 2018, 82% of all travel bookings worldwide took place with zero human interaction?
The explosion of online options for travel bookings is incredibly convenient, but the downside is that travelers are on their own to figure out what tools are right for their needs. Business travelers and travel managers’ needs differ from vacationers, and SMBs don’t have the big guys’ budget to afford pricey corporate travel tools.
LPNs like Hotel Engine offer a happy medium for business travelers who have historically been left out in the cold. With discounts of up to 60%, a hotel network exceeding 700,000 properties worldwide, efficient travel management tools, a platform that’s intuitive, user-friendly and free-to use, and helpful member support that’s available 24/7, what’s not to love?
Hotel Engine was created to be a better booking system for business travel that works for businesses of all sizes, with any budget. Try it for free today to see for yourself!
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.