Amex Talks Travel Trends

Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   WEB FARES AND ONLINE BOOKING ARE AMONG TODAY’S HOT TOPICS
Amex Talks Travel Trends
Charles Roumas Online booking tools and a need for greater cost efficiency have meeting planners and travel managers rethinking how to spend their dollars. For some insights into current trends, M&C spoke with Charles Roumas, Mt. Laurel, N.J.-based vice president, East region, for American Express One, which handles small and midsize corporate accounts.

M&C: In the effort to improve cost efficiencies, are you seeing more consolidation of travel and meetings departments?

Roumas: Yes. More travel managers are finding out who handles groups in their company. Out of economic necessity, there’s a lot more alignment of goals and objectives. They’re asking meeting planners to funnel air bookings through the travel management program.

M&C: A growing number of firms are using online self-booking tools. Does this have an application to meetings?

Roumas: Small groups provide the perfect opportunity to try online booking. Not only is the travel policy built into the system, but meeting fares can be preloaded.

M&C: Is there a cost advantage to online booking?

Roumas: Yes. It costs the agency $20 to $30 more to fulfill a booking by phone versus online. Online tools also steer travelers to select the lower fare. We call it the “guilt factor.” As a result, the average ticket price is 15 to 20 percent lower with online bookings.

M&C: Are Web fares making it more difficult for companies to control their air travel?

Roumas: A recent analysis with Amex customers showed that the perception of Web fare savings is much better than the reality. Travelers are wasting a lot of time searching for fares, and a very small percentage of those fares are usable for business travel, due to restrictions like Saturday-night stays. If travelers do book Web fares on their own, they can’t make changes or get assistance if they have a problem. And, of course, the company loses negotiating volume. We would like to see any discount fares be accessible to corporate travelers and integrated into the travel program.

• L.G.E.

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