Gillian Tans is now back in the travel space after investing in the corporate travel agency and joining its board. Here’s what the Spanish startup hopes to gain.
Gillian Tans, who until last month was Booking.com’s chairwoman and its CEO until 2019, has joined the board of Spanish corporate travel agency TravelPerk, alongside another online travel veteran — Joel Cutler.
The new hires come as part of a $115 million fundraising round, led by new investor General Catalyst and existing investor Kinnevik. It’s the latest sign of renewed faith in the embattled corporate travel sector.
Tans took over the leadership of Booking.com in 2016, becoming one of the highest-paid executives in online travel globally. She has personally invested an undisclosed amount in TravelPerk.
She joins Cutler, General Catalyst’s managing director. Cutler co-founded Kayak in 2004 with Paul English and Steve Hafner. In 2012 Booking Holdings, which was then known as Priceline.com, acquired Kayak for $1.8 billion. Cutler previously served on the board of Lola.com, which was also co-founded by English.
TravelPerk founder Avi Meir previously worked at Booking.com as senior product owner in 2014. Now the company wants to tap into the duo’s experience running big businesses, and TravelPerk’s chief commercial officer wants the company to become as large as Booking.com.
“We do intend to be as big as Booking in the future … that’s our ambition,” said Jean-Christophe Taunay-Bucalo. “In the same way you have a big winner in the leisure travel market, we think the same will happen in business travel.”
Taunay-Bucalo said Tans was “a builder” and would act as an advisor, manage hotel relationships and in the future help with the complexities of managing thousands of employees. “It’s fascinating to have someone on the board who’s seen it, done it,” he said. “It’s a complex industry and we’re at a stage where their contacts and deep understanding of how it works is going to help us tremendously.”
With Booking.com predominantly leisure focused, Taunay-Bucalo said he wasn’t ruling out TravelPerk’s own entry into selling holidays, although it wasn’t a short-term ambition.
The agency’s focus will now be on offering more sustainable travel options, factoring in the growing number of electric vehicles that will become available in the future. It is also doubling down on its new TravelPerk Events tool to help distributed teams come together face-to-face. “Business travel is slightly replacing office space. Our customers are using that money to finance meetings, as it’s fundamentally the same need they are trying to fit,” he added.
The new funding will also be used to support expansion in its target markets, which include the U.S. and Europe. The $115 million series D investment takes the total raised by TravelPerk to $409 million, and it claims it is now valued at $1.3 billion.
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Photo credit: Gillian Tans speaking at the Skift Global Forum in 2016. Skift