15 April 2004 | Andrew Golder
Properly implemented self-booking tools could help procurement managers to cut staff, processing and transaction costs for travel.
Delegates at the Institute of Travel Management's annual conference were told the average company would shed 20-40 travel consultants by implementing the tools, which allow staff to electronically organise and book travel arrangements.
And by making just 10 per cent of trips "touchless", it is estimated transaction costs could be cut by 25-44 per cent and processing costs by 60 per cent.
At present, only simple trips can be booked online, but technology will be in place soon to enable complex, multi-change journeys to be arranged at the touch of a button.
Tony Berry, director of operations and support services at BTI, said it was vital to have the technology in place and for suppliers to be able to support the tools.
But he sounded a warning note: "Self-booking tools are getting more effective, but they cannot yet provide everything that travel consultants can.
"There is no perfect model yet. You really have to think hard about service configuration and what changes to make to your organisation. Technology alone does not necessarily produce the cost savings you need."
Ray Wooldridge, travel procurement manager at BSkyB, said his company's experience of implementing self-booking tools had been a great success.
Most of the system's usage had been by executives travelling directly between London and Scotland. He said adoption rates for a pilot scheme launched in November were around 35 per cent, a figure expected to climb to 70 per cent by the end of the year.
Wooldridge said it was vital to keep travel agencies onside throughout the process, as it could lead to substantial savings.
"Travel agency support is vital. It was so important that we used our travel agent throughout the process. We are both trying to make money, so the more you support each other the better off you both are."