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Business travel has been anything but ‘business as usual’ during the past year. Business travelers began turning more frequently to on-demand ride apps like Uber and Lyft and alternative lodging options like Airbnb became easier to book and expense for business trips through Airbnb Business. The U.S. dollar also grew stronger against the Euro and other major currencies and the millennial business traveler gained more recognition from brands.
This week’s five startups demonstrate that business travel doesn’t have to be all about business, and it also doesn’t have to be bureaucratic. From rethinking travel fitness to rewarding business travelers for booking under budget, these startups have ideas worth noting.
>>Coupa is a personal assistant for business travelers, automatically adding dinners, mileage, other other charges into an expense report based on input from an Apple Watch and/or smartphone. Earlier this year Coupa acquired TripScanner, which allows employees to book travel through any portal they want.
SkiftTake: Business travelers want options when booking travel, and adding mobile to the mix will hopefully speed up the expense reporting process and make it smarter.
>>AirFit gives travelers access to gyms in airport terminals. It has various membership tiers, a mobile app concierge service and so far has launched at New York’s JFK Airport and Seattle-Tacoma and San Francisco International Airports.
SkiftTake: Road warriors don’t want to sacrifice their fitness during business travel and want to keep as normalized a routine as possible. AirFit will have to compete with existing lounges that offer these perks, but its membership tiers will likely differentiate it from lounges that are tied to often confusing or hassling loyalty programs.
>>TravelPerk is a company creating a custom algorithm for budgets for every individual business trip that an employee takes, be it for flights, hotels or rental cars. This algorithm computes budgets each time based on real-time market pricing data. Once a budget is set, the employee then has the opportunity to “beat the budget.” If the business traveler chooses a lower-priced travel option than the budget that is created, they’re rewarded with 50% of the savings.
SkiftTake: If given a certain budget, we’re doubtful that most business travelers will take pride in “beating it.” If a company will pay anyways, a budget is a budget. Still, some want a feel-good relationship with their work, but it will of course take a lot of funding to keep the rewards component sustainable long-term.
>>apreet searches a traveler’s social media networks to discover if any contacts have overlapping travel plans for the same time and destination. If there are any matches, the startup works to coordinate schedules between travelers so that meetups can easily take place.
SkiftTake: Traveling is all about meeting new people and sharing it with friends. apreet’s real business should be in arranging business meetings among travelers, in addition to focusing on the connection facilitation.
>>Ask Pam is an on-demand personal travel mobile app that connects frequent business travelers to independent hotel concierges. It can also help with expense reporting and recommendations for things to do in your business destination.
SkiftTake: With some hotels already offering similar mobile concierge apps, Ask Pam isn’t first out of the gate with this concept. Then again, who wants to download a bunch of hotel apps if only one would connect you to concierge services at several preferred hotels?