While not a new concept at this point, open booking continues to be a hot and sometimes controversial topic in corporate travel.
Under this evolving model, travelers can pretty much shop and book anywhere, provided the booking makes its way back to their employer promptly. They can also book anything, yes that’s right, they can book anything, provided they’re not spending like a drunken sailor on leave (which loosely translated means they are spending within an identified budget).
On the surface, saying a traveler can do "anything," even with some caveats, sounds crazy, especially to those who make their living managing travel. But the opposing argument suggests that open booking is nothing more than a way to handle the rogue activity that has been going on for years.
If we agree that rogue bookings exist (and even those from the most strictly mandated programs, when pressed, begrudgingly admit to some degree of leakage), then what’s the big deal? Is the fear that "opening things up" will cause travel expense to rise faster than the federal deficit? Will open booking make it harder to find employees when they’re on the road than it is to find a TSA checkpoint that serves coffee while you wait?
Well probably not, but for open booking to succeed, technology providers and travel managers must make sure that a) discounts are still applied, b) that employees are tracked, c) that travel policies are enforced, and d) that the servicing of open bookings can be managed without busting the budget, particularly when things goes awry.
There are valid arguments both for and against "open booking," and I think it’s safe to say that you’d be hard pressed to find a travel program without some degree of "openness." When all is said and done, this might really be about the words describing this newest iteration of the travel program than the travel program itself.