By Amelie Losanes, Senior Consultant, Sustainable Collaboration
With sustainability on everyone’s agenda, there’s one opportunity travel managers might be missing out on as they seek to reach their business goals: leveraging the online booking tool (OBT) to guide sustainability-driven decision-making.
If you’re wondering how and if that’s possible, here are some ways you can encourage travelers to make better, more sustainable decisions by using built-in OBT features.
Check your OBT settings
Since every OBT is different, your first step is to check with your travel management company or OBT provider to see what’s included in the version you’re using, and what new helpful features are coming. There are many OBT tools that have functionality you might not be using yet!
Enable air/rail search for flights
Since air travel generates the most CO2 emissions of any travel program, it also gives the biggest potential for savings when addressing sustainability goals. Within some OBTs, you can enable air/rail searches. This means that instead of simply providing flight results, the traveler will also be provided with rail results so they can select and book trains on routes where they’re a viable alternative to taking a plane.
This is a particularly useful feature for areas that are well served by rail, like the East Coast and Pacific Northwest in the US, much of Europe and the UK, Japan, and China. At close to 40,000 kms , China’s high speed rail network is the longest in the world and is larger than the train networks in all of the other networks combined. And with more routes planned, taking trains in China will become an even better option in terms of sustainable travel.
On average , taking a train is 20x more carbon efficient than flying. And even in China, where electricity is carbonated, taking a train is still 5 times more CO2 efficient than flying, enabling you to make good progress toward reducing your travel carbon footprint.
Educate and engage your travelers at the point of sale
Education and engagement go hand in hand in encouraging more sustainable travel. And one of the most important places to shift traveler behavior is with engaging messages at the point of sale (POS). In other words, send timely messages within the OBT when they’re about to book a trip. These can range from simple text messages to popups and banners similar to the ones travelers see on retail websites.
For example, you can use banners and popup messages within the OBT to give travelers timely information about:
- The most sustainable carrier on your top routes
- The type of aircraft they should select (some newer planes are on average 20% more fuel efficient than older aircraft)
- Your preferred routes and carriers
- Choosing rail over air whenever rail is an option
- Choices for renting and booking cars, such as taking a smaller vehicle to reduce their carbon footprint
When it comes to addressing sustainability in hotels, you can use OBT messaging to flag hotels as preferred when they have the right eco certifications or are addressing sustainability initiatives such as biodiversity and water usage.
This type of messaging is pretty effective, so see what messaging options are available in your OBT to guide better, more sustainable, decisions.
Other point-of-sale options
You can also use your OBT to guide behavior right at the start of the booking process, even before showing itinerary or pricing information. One of our four pillars of more sustainable travel is to travel less, and you can use custom messaging or popups in the OBT to check in with travelers BEFORE they book about whether a trip is necessary at all, or whether video-conferencing, for example, might make more sense.
The OBT is also a good place to make your travel policy more transparent, because how many travelers know every detail of what’s in the policy? Embedding that into the OBT and highlighting the most relevant parts of the policy at the right time makes it even easier for travelers to make the most sustainable travel choices.
Enable third-party tools to display accurate emissions at POS
Most travelers WANT to be more sustainable. But one of the most challenging aspects of sustainable travel is knowing what to do, what’s in the policy, which aircraft are better than others, when to take a train, and so on.
In 2022, Advito launched its ISO-certified GATE4 methodology, giving an accurate and holistic picture of total trip emissions. Importantly, it includes both carbon emissions and radiative forcing metrics, as well as metrics for accommodation, meals, and more. Now, by partnering with TripKicks we are bringing this information right into the SAP Concur online booking tool, allowing travelers to see accurate carbon emissions figures in the air search results and empowering them to make more sustainable choices. This partnership puts more sustainable business travel at everyone’s fingertips.
We all know that travelers want to do the right thing. Configuring your OBT to educate and engage them can help everyone be more sustainable. Want to learn more about how you can use your OBT to guide more sustainable travel? Get in touch to see how we can help.