Skift Take

Upside hopes working with The Wall Street Journal will attract high-yield and repeat business travelers to its service. We've seen before that media-linked booking sites rarely have staying power. As a customer-acquisition move, though, it could pay off.

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.

As startups like Upside and Lola vie against industry incumbents like Concur Hipmunk for the wallets of the lucrative, unmanaged- business-traveler segment, acquiring repeat customers is crucial.

Upside is partnering with The Wall Street Journal on a booking site aimed at high-yield, unmanaged business travelers in order to try and solve that challenge.

We spoke to Upside founder Jay Walker about the tie-up, and he was excited about the collaboration between the two brands.

“There is a deep shift from a transaction model to a relationship model mediated by the mobile phone,” Walker told Skift. “The Wall Street Journal is saying we’re in the pole position for tens of millions of business travelers. If we can engage those people in value-added service relationships, that will be ours to win as opposed to [transaction-focused groups] who have to invest in a service relationship.”

As we reflected in our write-up, only time will tell if the Upside product resonates with business travelers. For all the talk of the unmanaged business traveler craving enhanced personal service, we have yet to see the wider market move in that direction. Perhaps business travelers have become inured to the lack of control when they book online; perhaps they’re ready for a change. At least they now have options besides traditional self-booking.

This week we also took a look at new research from the Global Business Travel Association on how travelers pay for their work trips. Corporate credit cards remain the name of the game, while very few travelers use virtual cards.

Given the myriad mobile-payment solutions out there, it’s surprising more forward-looking companies haven’t experimented with different methods to make life easier for travelers while increasing visibility and control over spending.

— Andrew Sheivachman, Senior Writer

Business of Buying

Wall Street Journal Launches Online Travel Site Powered by Upside: Upside is trying to reach a more high-yielding audience of business travelers through its partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Whether the Upside experience ends up resonating with its users over the long term is another story. Read more at Skift

Qantas Plans Overseas Expansion Which May Put Its Profits at Risk: Qantas’ stock market valuation tends to rise when it cuts back on capacity growth, and vice versa. Executives wanting to add full-service international flights may need to prove the flights will lead to a winning long-term strategy. Read more at Skift

Qatar Under Blockade Is a Mix of Time-Sucking Layovers and a Fascinating Crossroads: While much of the news media focuses on bigger-picture geopolitical issues emanating from the Saudi-led blockade, it is actually the small constrictions that can be the most painful in Qatar. But, despite increased travel friction, Doha remains one of the most intriguing places in the world at the moment. Read more at Skift

A Majority of Avid U.S. Travelers Have Never Used Airbnb: Despite Airbnb’s precipitous growth in the travel industry, our latest survey results show that the company still has lots of room for growth among U.S. travelers. Read more at Skift

Safety + Security

Flyers Headed to U.S. Face Verbal Screening and Confusion: So far, the enhanced screening procedures implemented on all U.S. international arrivals seem fairly painless. We’ll see how things go for flyers as the busiest travel period of the year approaches. Read more at Skift

Can Technology Make Meetings and Events Safer?: It’s not something a lot of people want to think about, but with large gatherings increasingly becoming a target for violent attacks, meeting and event planners have to step up their security tools and protocols. Read more at Skift

Disruption + Innovation

Expedia CEO on Blockchain and Competitive Threats: Expedia Inc. seems ready to further develop existing brands like HomeAway in 2018. An opportunistic acquisition or two might also take place, but CEO Okerstrom says he’s focusing on organic growth from companies already in Expedia’s portfolio. Read more at Skift

Business Travelers Rarely Use Virtual Payments In Another Sign of Companies’ Slow Adoption: Most companies still give their business travelers corporate cards or ask them to pay upfront for later reimbursement. Given the rapid development of mobile and virtual payment methods for consumers, corporate travel is lagging behind yet again. Read more at Skift

SpiceJet Is Buying Seaplanes to Reach Indian Areas That Other Airlines Can’t: Most of India’s 450 airstrips are too decrepit for big planes. So SpiceJet’s likely plan to buy 100 amphibious planes to reach otherwise hard-to-serve areas sounds like a puddle-jump worth taking. Read more at Skift

Sabre Stays Profitable After Layoffs as the Company Vows to Become Nimbler: Investors liked Sabre’s third quarter revenue and profit report. But the verdict is still out on whether the company is relying on cheap fixes like layoffs to hit its targets or if it is laying the groundwork for sustainable growth. Read more at Skift


Skift editors Hannah Sampson [[email protected]] and Andrew Sheivachman [[email protected]] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, ctir

Photo credit: An attendant stands inside a high-speed train during an organized experience trip from Beijing to Zhengzhou, as part of a new rail line, December 22, 2012. 125803

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