Online services will help to cut travel costs. But not everyone.

Inspired by the news on Sberbank`s launch of a special online service for business trip planning, experts of the Russian Association of Business Travel have raised the question - for whom such tools may be useful and for what purpose, and, on the contrary, who they may do more harm.

Online services like this for business trip planning will help small and medium-sized businesses to save about 15-20% of their employees` business travel expenses, is the opinion of the chairman of the Russian Association of Business Travel Vadim Zelenski. "They will achieve economy, first of all, due to a better control of their expenses", the expert is convinced. At the same time, he says, one should keep in mind that online platforms used for business trip planning have specially been developed for small and medium-sized businesses that do not constitute a menace for classical TMCs, but rather supplement them, meeting the requirements of another market segment.

Roman Blinov from Corteos Platform agrees to this opinion. "Services of this kind offered by banks can potentially become widespread among small clients of this bank who book several business trips a month. You should understand that paperwork connected with booking of travel documents and hotel vouchers is not even a half of the process of business travel arrangement – there is still a huge post-service process – the process of exchanges, returns and corrections, as well as provision of additional and extra services", he says, expressing confidence that not a single large or even medium-sized customer will ever agree to use such a service, at least unless this process on the bank`s side is modified into a separate division or a company with its own agreement, terms, guarantees, sufficient competences, reputation and so on. But it may well provide competition to small business travel agencies that provide services to customers without specific requirements.

The service is supposed to help to book hotels, railway or air tickets using a bank card or a company`s current account, as well as to provide and store traveling documents in electronic form. To be fair, development of similar platforms is becoming a trend: new market players appear, and services that have long been familiar to customers in the B2C-segment, are more and more focused on the B2B segment.

If we summarize all the judgments and estimates voiced from time to time at forums and other events held by the Russian Association of Business Travel, we can come to the conclusion that the industry is in a constant search of new solutions, including technological ones. The needs of the businesses differ greatly, they depend on special features of the business segment of the company, the number of employees and a huge number of other factors. Therefore, the more technologies and tools the market offers, the higher the chance that every customer will be able to find a solution that meets his own specific requirements.