Travelers get free gift cards, and companies save money on their travel spend. Tweaking traveler behavior through incentives isn't new to the corporate travel space, but investors seem to have finally noticed its potential.
The Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.
THE FUTURE OF CORPORATE + BUSINESS TRAVEL
The big news in corporate travel this week is a huge funding round for Priceline co-founder Jay Walker’s new business travel venture Upside, and everyone in the corporate travel ecosystem should be paying attention.
Upside, which rewards business travelers with gift cards for making bookings that save their companies money, raised $50 million at a $200 million valuation, showing that major travel and technology are taking the company seriously.
“We’re going straight for the unmanaged business traveler,” said Walker when the company was announced last summer. “A lot of the time when I talk to small companies, [they say] they’re not even as interested in saving money, but if they could just give their employees a benefit for business travel, they love that idea.”
Upside negotiates with travel providers to drive down prices and presents packages to its users instead of prices of individual aspects of the trip. Walker is going after medium-sized companies with unmanaged travel, presenting a clear value proposition to both travelers and their companies.
Companies like Rocketrip also provide incentives for business travelers to make smarter decisions, and Upside is part of a rising tide of corporate travel startups with a focus on user behavior.
In a sector that is historically resistant to change, smart companies are pushing forward what has long been commonsense in the consumer travel space: making life easier for your users is valuable, and tangible rewards — especially gift cards — are even better.
— Andrew Sheivachman, Skift
SOCIAL QUOTE OF THE DAY
LaGuardia TSA just seized my Zabar’s cream cheese. ‘It’s spreadable,’ the officer said. ‘We can’t let spreadables through.— @JeffreyGoldberg
BUSINESS OF BUYING
Hilton CEO Sees Optimism Lifting Business Travel in 2017: Unlike Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta finds a bit of optimism in the new U.S. administration change, at least when it comes to corporate business travel. Read more at Skift
Congress Is Close to Letting Government Biz Travelers Expense Uber and Lyft: Government employees expensing ridesharing services is a huge win for Uber and Lyft. But if the government itself supports the use of transportation networking companies for its workers, what are the possible chances of them regulating the industry in the future? Read more at Skift
U.S. Flight Cancellations and Lost Bags Reach Historic Low: People love to hate airlines. But U.S. carriers have gotten a lot more reliable in the past two years, and that’s definitely good for passengers. Read more at Skift
Air India Will Reserve Rows for Women Flying Solo: This is one way to deal with the abuse of female passengers by men onboard Air India flights. But is it enough? Read more at Buying Business Travel
JetBlue Opens Up Free Wi-Fi on All Flights: Fly-Fi is now free across the entirety of JetBlue’s fleet, which should make any Wi-Fi-dependent traveler happy. Read more at Skift
Safety and Security
The TSA Found the Most Guns at These U.S. Airports in 2016: The TSA is likely doing a better job identifying firearms at a time when more and more irresponsible gun owners are either purposefully or mistakenly attempting to smuggle them onboard. Read more at Skift
DISRUPTION + INNOVATION
Business Travel Startup Upside Raises $50 Million at $200 Million Valuation: Priceline co-founder Jay Walker is looking to reinvent how smaller companies buy corporate travel. Investors see the potential in his play to reward business travelers themselves for travel choices that save their companies money. Read more at Skift
Etihad and Lufthansa Are Exploring a Deeper Relationship: It’s too early to know for sure, but Etihad may have made a mistake in trying to prop up so many failing European airlines. It now needs a new European plan, and Lufthansa likely will be part of that strategy. But that doesn’t mean Etihad needs to buy a piece of the airline. Read more at Skift
Megatrends Reshaping Business Events in 2017: Mass personalization, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous connectivity were three of the big megatrends at CES 2017 this month, which offer significant strategies for new innovation in the meetings and events industry. Read more at Skift
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Photo credit: More corporate travel startups are paying attention to how to shift traveler behavior toward smarter buying decisions. Pictured is Upside's app for business travelers. Upside