The ubiquitous company booking tool is getting its first overhaul in 15 years, to let the next generation of business travelers book more of what they want. That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s going to take a while.
SAP Concur Travel is getting its first overhaul in more than 15 years, in a bid to make the platform more flexible, offering more travel options to younger travelers who tend to book outside usual channels.
Work’s already been going on for a couple of years, but officially announcing the “re-platforming” mission at the Global Business Travel Association’s convention in San Diego this week, Concur Travel president Charlie Sultan said to check back at the 2023 event — by which time it should all be ready.
Concur Travel is widely know among business travelers, and it claims a 51 percent share of the market. This rebuild is designed to make the platform more flexible, so other systems and content can be quickly plugged in and used by bookers. It already has 700 partners in what Sultan calls the Concur Travel “ecosystem,” but wants to be able to offer more.
This year the company also plans to complete integrations with Southwest Airlines, “so we continue to augment that program to bring in more and more content,” he said.
“Honestly, as the business travelers get younger and younger, a lot of them expect to book directly on the supplier sites. And for us, it’s how do we enable the best choice for the traveler managers, regardless of where the bookings are happening. So the TripLink product continues to evolve.”
TripLink acts a bridge that brings in bookings made outside of Concur Travel.
“I’m really excited right now. We’ve been talking about re-platforming for years,” he added. “In the last couple of years, unfortunately as other companies made people redundant, we went on a hiring spree. We recruited 200 incremental engineers.”
SAP Concur will begin rolling out what it calls a new car rental “experience” by the end of 2022, which will include more hybrid and electric options, and guidance on vehicle emissions. An “end-to-end hotel booking experience” will be launched in early 2023.
By next year’s convention, it expects to begin introducing a new air experience, which will offer a revamped user experience, enhanced content, and a better ability for travelers to compare amenities across products. This kind of “store front” approach is a growing trend.
It also plans to bring additional rail carriers across Europe and the U.S.
As well as content, the second aim is to give the platform a facelift. Some travel managers have in the past criticized Concur Travel’s perhaps dated look and feel. “Every website I go to continues to evolve, so it’s definitely our goal and objective to have a better consumer grade user experience,” Sultan said.
There’s also been some commentary about slow deployment paces.
“Because we’re multiple travel management company, multi global distribution system, multi content sources, multi partners, … it might take us a little longer because we have to integrate into multiple parties,” he added.
“It’s interesting in travel, because when integrating different countries, you might have something that works perfectly in the U.S., but then you find yourself in Europe and you’ve got easyJet or Ryanair, or suppliers who don’t provide the same level of content through the tools we’ve integrated.”
Concur does have perhaps a wider reach than most, with parent company SAP’s 50,000 customers dotted around the globe.
It’s also “bulking” up the expense platform with more artificial intelligence features, to help better understand nvoices and receipts. But what it won’t do is allow users to plug in third-party expense systems.
Another goal is to make sustainability more prominent. “When Outtask was developed, it wasn’t a big topic,” Sultan said. “It’s a huge topic now, so how do we modernize it, so we can make quick changes for the things people need?”