Concur Rebuilds booking tool from the ground up for younger business travelers

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The company’s ubiquitous booking tool is undergoing its first overhaul in 15 years to enable the next generation of business travelers to book more of what they want. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it will take some time.

Matthew Parsons

SAP Concur Travel is undergoing its first overhaul in more than 15 years in an effort to make the platform more flexible, offering more travel options to younger travelers who tend to book outside of the usual channels.

Work has already been underway for a few years, but in officially announcing the “re-platform” mission at the Global Business Travel Association conference in San Diego this week, Concur Travel president Charlie Sultan said it would be back at the 2023 event — by which time everything should be ready.

Concur Travel is well known among business travelers and claims a 51 percent market share. This refactoring is designed to make the platform more flexible so that other systems and content can be quickly connected 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’re continuing to expand that program to offer more and more content,” he said.

“Honestly, as business travelers get younger and younger, many of them expect to book directly on supplier websites. And for us, it’s how we enable the best choice for traveler managers, no matter where bookings are made. So the TripLink product continues to evolve.”

TripLink acts as a bridge that brings 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 are laying people off, we’ve gone on a hiring spree. We hired 200 divisional engineers.”

SAP Concur will begin rolling out what it calls a new rental car “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 launch in early 2023.

By next year’s conference, it expects to begin rolling out a new inflight experience that will offer a refreshed user experience, improved content and better ability for travelers to compare amenities between products. This kind of “storefront” approach is a growing trend.

It also plans to bring additional rail carriers across Europe and the US

Final touches

Apart from the content, the second goal is to refresh the platform. Some travel managers have previously criticized Concur Travel’s perhaps outdated look and feel. “Every website I go to continues to evolve, so it’s definitely our goal and our goal to have a better consumer-grade user experience,” Sultan said.

There have also been some comments about slow growth rates.

“Because we are multiple travel management companies, multiple global distribution system, multiple content sources, multiple partners, … it might take us a little bit longer because we have to integrate in multiple places,” he added.

“It’s interesting in travel because when you integrate different countries, you might have something that works perfectly in the US, but then you’re in Europe and you have easyJet or Ryanair or suppliers that don’t provide the same level of content through the tools that we’ve integrated ».

Concur has perhaps a larger reach than most, with parent company SAP’s 50,000 customers scattered around the world.

It’s also “bloating” the expense platform with more AI capabilities to help better understand invoices and receipts. But what it won’t do is allow users to connect third-party output systems.

Another goal is to make sustainability more visible. “When Outtask was developed, it wasn’t a big deal,” 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?”

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