Company Dime article: Siemens Goes Global with HRS
Siemens executives discuss the evolution of their global corporate hotel programme (now in 170+ countries), and share several of their reasons for expanding the relationship with HRS to serve both sourcing and booking needs.
Siemens Fixates On Ingenuity With TripLink, Blockchain, Hotel Sourcing Farmed To HRS
The decision by Siemens to move all hotel sourcing to HRS isn't only about improving the $101 billion industrial manufacturer's lodging program. It supports a traveler-centric philosophy through flexibility and choice that's also reflected in other areas like air travel and booking channels. Process efficiencies are a bonus.
“This is not open booking by definition," said Albert James Kueng, the company's head of business travel, during an April 11 phone interview. "We're going to authorize the suppliers we think should be in the game. For example, Airbnb and other shared economy players. Do we force it? No. But if you say, 'This is valuable for me,' you can book it. You do it anyway. So we’ll connect it with our ecosystem and get visibility. That’s a new quality for us in travel management. Airbnb? We will sign an agreement.”
Siemens is in the midst of a global implementation of Concur Travel and Expense. It expects to use Concur's TripLink program. Airbnb participates. Concur two years ago announced plans to add HRS to its roster of directly connected suppliers. A Concur website indicates HRS integration is "coming soon." Siemens officials called out the potential to use HRS booking applications and capture data through TripLink.
Alternative distribution channels are not new for the Germany-based conglomerate. It made headlines in 2016 for supporting a Lufthansa direct connect initiative. After adding new benefits in that program (these now include lounge access, bag perks, fast lane access and priority boarding), Siemens built similar relationships with Finnair and a couple Middle East carriers.
New Distribution Capability-based airline distribution thus far is not part of the company's work with airlines, but Siemens VP for global mobility services Thorsten Eicke said his team was open to it.
Whatever the means of connectivity, Siemens expects its travel management companies, BCD Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, to provide support. Eicke and Kueng describe the TMC as the caretaker.
“Every booking will be referred back to the system and also the travel agency," said Eicke. "We want flexibility. The traveler asks, 'Can I book here or there?' We say, 'Yes you can.' "
Flexibility and choice also are hallmarks of the HRS initiative, announced last month. Having previously used HRS for sourcing in some European and Asia/Pacific markets, this year Siemens decided to go global with the relationship. Global for Siemens means more than 170 countries. The company considered other providers, but none offered both sourcing and booking capability, the Siemens officials said.
"The market worldwide is not looking like the U.S. one, where the majority is based on chain hotels and everyone is in the GDS," said Eicke. "It's the opposite, a very diverse market."
Some providers used in the past will no longer support hotel sourcing for Siemens. The company will streamline internal resources as its travel department concentrates on "the strategic part of travel management — not so much operations," said Eicke.
As for booking the company's estimated 3 million annual room nights, the Siemens travel leaders said the goal was not to change the mix of commissionable versus non-commissionable rates, or the usage of chain versus independent properties. Traveler choices will drive those patterns.
HRS CEO Tobias Ragge in a press statement indicated that HRS hotel partners would "benefit from this deal, which gives them increased access to one of the world's top global brands."
According to Eicke, "We have had extremely high satisfaction with HRS especially in China, and we think now is the right timing to roll this to a wide extent in terms of different channels. We're moving away from 'one channel' as the one you have to do. There are several. Of course, the content is one and the same."
Meanwhile, the press statement made reference to "future-oriented technologies ... such as artificial intelligence and blockchain." According to Kueng, Siemens has "several pilots and test environments for blockchain ongoing in different commodities" including lodging.
HRS vice president of product Martin Biermann last week told The Company Dime that this included efforts to "enhance the accuracy and transparency of Siemens' contracts and rates with hotel suppliers."