Major Operators Enhance Online Booking Tools

Posted on December 10, 2008 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

NEW YORK – Several of the largest chauffeured transportation companies recently have launched or are working on updates to their online booking tools, promising better control over spending.

EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services recently launched a new website with enhanced capabilities, while Dav El Chauffeured Transportation Network is in the middle of updates to its website and recently announced an agreement with automated ground transportation payment firm RideCharge.

EmpireCLS' new website is "a real-time interface. You can book for anything around the world," said vice president of business development Marissa Criaris. "People can update profiles, get receipts, view history and load preferred pickup spots. On the day of your trip, you can view your chauffeur's picture and get cell phone information."

The website also can be accessed through phones and BlackBerrys, and interfaces with the booker's computers, uploading meeting reminders along with confirmation numbers.

When a reservation is made, a receipt is sent to the user as a PDF within 24 hours. Criaris said users next year would be able to pull spending reports from the website as well.

Criaris said approximately 50% of all the company's bookings are done through the website and global distribution systems.

Dav El's online booking system is in the middle of a refresh, said president and CEO Scott Solombrino.

"We're trying to make it slicker, easier, have more applicable information, be able to store more data for the end user to be able to have access to longer history trails on their data and improve some of the processes," Solombrino said.

Dav El also has signed agreements with GDSs, RideCharge, GroundRez and Global Ground Automation, recently acquired by Rearden Commerce.

"We've enhanced as much as we can," he said. "There's so many ways to get in here from a booking perspective. There's no one system I find perfect, but they're all available in the market."

Carey International partnered with GroundRez this year, said Carey senior vice president of global sales Matthew Tolan, and plans a mobile-compatible website next year. The site can import credit card receipts and account invoices into an Excel format. "The ease of reservation is crucial, but so is the invoicing and the pulling of receipts for travelers who have to have certain parameters in terms of how they have to file their expense reports," Tolan said, adding that customers had asked for online capabilities.

"People want to get off the phones," he said. "As little as three or four years ago, we were doing less than 3% of reservations using automated channels. This year, approximately 23% of our total reservations are going through one of our automated channels."

Using automated channels can help corporate customers by easing the booking process and offering better capture of chauffeured transportation spending.

"By going through the booking tool, not only do you have a record of it, you have a management report," said Dave Kilduff, managing director of ground transportation for Carlson Wagonlit Travel's CWT Solutions Group. "It's a start of a foundation to get your arms around the limo business."

Bill Knepper, senior director of business development at BCD Travel's Advito consulting arm, added, "As time goes on, if you can't make the reservation online, unless you're in a unique location, you're going to be at a competitive disadvantage."

Meanwhile, some executives said the use of online channels would never completely replace the phone.

"We think online moves a couple more points in the next couple of years as it gets more sophisticated, but we don't think it's the end-all," Solombrino said. "We don't anticipate all chauffeured car going online, just like I don't anticipate the computer driving the car and not having any drivers in the future. It still comes down to the driver experience in the chauffeured vehicle. That's where chauffeured car creates its value."

Source: Business Travel News

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