TripActions: What is it and how will it change corporate travel?
While there have been rumblings about Airbnb’s disruptive impact on the corporate travel market (a topic we will delve into in a later article), we have been paying close attention to another technology company, TripActions. In today’s AP Voice, we examine what TripActions is and how it can be a sales and marketing asset to independent hotels.
Never heard of it? Started in 2015, TripActions describes itself as “a technology-enabled corporate travel management platform that combines data science, user-friendly design, and world-class service, to bring businesses and their employees the most rewarding travel experiences possible.” The start-up boasts that “now, for the first time, businesses can track their travel spends like never before while keeping the focus on employee happiness. So business travel is no longer a pain, it’s a perk.”
How does it work? TripActions pulls together offers for hotels, flights and car rentals from websites such as Sabre, Expedia and Priceline. To deliver itineraries that adhere to corporate travel policies, the company then uses machine learning technology to expedite the booking process and an artificial intelligence platform that alerts its agents if a customer misses a connection to automatically suggest alternatives.
How do corporates benefit? Its most unique feature, and one that companies will see quick results from, is its incentive program. Available through a website and an app, TripActions gives employees a goal, a "price to beat" for the average hotel costs in that city. Travelers are rewarded with gift cards or credits towards personal vacations when they choose cost-effective hotel rooms or flights.
Why does it matter? TripActions is at present aiming its travel management services at small-to-medium companies. In July, the company announced it had raised $51 million in series B funding to support global expansion into Europe and Asia-Pacific, bringing its total funding to just under $80 million. Earlier this year, it opened its first office outside of the US in Amsterdam, with a satellite office in London.
According to the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, 90 percent of travel managers use “visual cues” to remind travelers that whatever they are booking doesn’t meet company policy. Less than one-fifth of these agents use the type of monetary incentives that TripActions uses. CEO Ariel Cohen said that over the last six months, nearly three-quarters of TripActions' users have booked a trip below the "price to beat" for that city.
How do independent hotel groups benefit? The founders of TripActions feel that the current corporate travel system is broken, and no doubt most corporate travellers would agree. Many of us can recall a time when we travelled for work and were required to stay at a corporate hotel because the cool, independent boutique next door wasn’t part of the company’s travel programme. And often, that boutique was either the same price or cheaper, which added to the frustration.
It is precisely this feeling that TripActions is leveraging by focusing on the users of corporate travel policies.
The benefits of these types of startups for independent hotels are immense for two inter-related reasons:
There is less pressure on independent hotels to be part of corporate travel schemes because the key decision makers are now the company employees. Travel agents tailor their marketing to corporate travel departments rather than the end-user. As the data from TripActions shows, true savings for companies come when employees are empowered and incentivised to choose their own hotels. This makes it possible for hotels not in a company’s list of approved vendors to still receive business from that company’s employees.
The marketing strategies that hotels use to attract leisure travels can be leveraged to attract business travelers. If these travelers are no longer restricted to company policy and are free to select their own hotels, then they are more likely to select hotels that appeal to them personally and offer the types of experiences they would look for as a leisure traveler as well as the amenities that are useful while being away on business.
At Amistad Partners, we are keen to track the development of companies like TripActions because it helps us ensure that we are helping our hotel partners reach their target audience across all possible platforms.