Corporate travel is extremely resistant to innovation because a select handful of gatekeepers make it difficult for new entrants to gain access to the content and data that is needed. These players are driving the industry forward by fixing how travelers book and experience business travel.
Every company wants to be innovative, but a small few are more successful than others. So many companies across travel claim to be innovators that it can be hard to even understand what innovation is anymore.
Corporate travel, of course, is dominated by legacy players like American Express Global Business Travel or Concur that provide solutions to the biggest companies in the world. Innovation often comes from smaller players, which face an uphill battle competing against the industry’s billion-dollar behemoths.
Skift’s editorial staff took a look for the first time at the corporate travel ecosystem to identify the executives and leaders that have helped the industry evolve in recent years.
For the sake of clarity, we are defining innovation as something new that helps move the industry forward, either for business travelers or the companies servicing them.
The Skift 2018 Corporate Travel Innovators List
CEO Ethan Bernstein
Freebird provides a smarter form of flight insurance to business travelers, automatically helping clients deal with disruptions and complicated flight rebookings that would often have to be handled by support staff. After an early pivot, Bernstein has led the company’s efforts to become more integrated with travel management companies.
CEO Bala Chandran
Lumo, formerly known as Flightsayer, provides real-time flight disruption information and predictions to travel management companies. Events can also use the technology to track how disruptions will affect attendees and VIPs.
Vice President John Dietz
Concur’s experimental technology lab has been active in its attempts to bring consumer technology solutions into corporate travel. Under the leadership of Dietz, it recently introduced connectivity with popular business messaging app Slack, and has been developing an Amazon Alexa task to allow voice-controlled access to travel data.
CEO Paul English
Corporate travel has a long way to go when it comes to personalization, and Lola is leading the charge to figure it out. Lola uses artificial intelligence to serve up hotels and flights the user will prefer and then handles support through a chat feature.
CEO Andres Fabris
Traxo has been around for a decade, and Fabris it has led the way on creating better tracking tools for employees who book out of company policy. Real-time travel management for companies and alerts for travelers round out the company’s intuitive solutions.
CEO Darrin Grafton
Serko integrates all the essentials of corporate travel management into one package, and has become a force in the Pacific corporate travel market. Under Grafton, the company has led the way on tools that include rich content and artificial intelligence in a way that most corporate travel giants haven’t yet been able to.
CEO Wen-Wen Lam
NexTravel makes it easy to get employees onboard with travel policy at a small company, including perks that make the experience better for business travelers. Lam’s focus on connecting the fragmented global business travel experience is also of note.
Director of Emerging Technologies Miriam Moscovici
As BCD Travel’s director of emerging technologies, Moscovici has led one of the world’s biggest travel management companies on a path embracing customization and experimentation.
CEO Steve Reynolds
TRIPBAM parses and analyzes the complex world of hotel pricing to find the best rates and keep hotels honest about things like last rate availability shenanigans. Reynolds is outspoken about the problems that plague corporate travel and has worked to fix them.
Co-Founders Caterina Rizzi and Julien Smith
Not everyone has a managed travel department or a meeting planner at their disposal. Breather offers meeting rooms and office space on demand in nine cities and recently expanded from North America to London. The ability to book a reliable, stylish space for a period determined by your company’s needs is powerful in a sector defined by complexity.
CEO Daniel Senyard
Pretty much everyone uses Google Chrome as their web browser of choice. Shep, formerly known as Compl.ai, uses a Chrome plugin to track what employees book and allows an administrator to set policy. For a small business, this is a lot easier to deploy than many of the other options out there for business travel tracking.
CEO Sarosh Waghmar
WTMC has worked to develop a seamless global technology stack, along with robust New Distribution Capability connections to the global airlines that have embraced the technology. Founder Waghmar is out to solve problems endemic to corporate travel from the bottom up.
CEO Jay Walker
Priceline founder Jay Walker has tried out some big ideas to disrupt business travel. While packaging airfares and hotel stays don’t seem to have panned out exactly as planned, Upside continues to push forward on the user experience and service fronts.
CEO Xuesong Wang
Baoku owns the Chinese corporate travel market, and under the leadership of Xuesong Wang has worked to connect the surging pool of Chinese corporations with the providers and tools they need to manage business travel. Online travel management tools and deals with a diverse set of travel companies make it one of Asia’s most interesting companies.
CEO Henrik Zillmer
Navigating the process of receiving compensation from European airlines for delayed flights or lost bags is a huge hassle. AirHelp simplifies the process for flyers, and has even developed artificial intelligence technology to deal with the legal complexity arising from the claims.