Skift Take

Plenty of pandemic-era agency acquisitions are wrapping up, and it's notable that some brand names are disappearing. Egencia's boss is adamant that won't be the case with this deal.

In the current climate of travel agency takeovers, the president of Egencia has said the business will be a “protected asset” as it gets folded into new owner American Express Global Business Travel, which bought it from Expedia last year.

Mark Hollyhead, who took over the reins shortly after Rob Greyber’s sudden departure in 2020, believes Egencia was a strategic acquisition. “It’s pretty different to previous acquisitions which were ‘roll-up’ and acquiring quality books of business,” he said.

A series of pandemic-era acquisitions are now being ironed out. The Click Travel name has been removed after Spanish agency TravelPerk bought it in 2021. Australia’s CTM, meanwhile, said its integration of 2020 acquisition Travel and Transport into its North America division “is now largely complete.”

However, Hollyhead said if anything, it could teach Amex GBT a thing or two.

“Amex GBT is a very young company, a lot of times we forget that,” he said at the Global Business Travel Association’s convention in San Diego this week, referring to when its new life started eight years ago after a deal with Certares. “When we’ve come in, it feels like Egencia is a catalyst for change, and growth, and opportunity to go after this large, homogeneous small and medium-size enterprise business.”

Part of that could be put down to the fact Expedia still retains some business interest, as an investor in Amex GBT. Expedia’s continuing to provide content to it as well.

Hollyhead said none of its client losses had been “coded” to its acquisition by the world’s biggest corporate travel agency. And existing customers weren’t too concerned. “What’s going to change? Well, since the first of November, have you seen anything change, apart from positive things, like within 80 days we’ve got all of Amex GBT’s air content,” he said.

“If that’s disruptive, sorry about bringing you savings. That’s about the asset being protected, and us now taking the best things about Amex GBT and ensuring it’s available to the Egencia client base,” he added.

Egencia’s staff have also been pleased by the new owner’s willingness to change and do things differently, and the willingness to take on what customers want, Hollyhead claimed.

The premise for the brand is that it can act as a stepping stone, and smaller companies can use Egencia to go from an unmanaged travel program to a managed one. For the next stage of maturity in their managed program, they can graduate to Amex GBT.

Ovation Travel, which Amex GBT bought in January 2021, was there for those clients wanting a “high touch” level of service.

“And those three brands, going to market, it’s a story of growth and scale,” he added.

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Tags: american express global business travel, business travel, corporate travel, egencia, expedia, gbta

Photo credit: American Express Global Business Travel announced it was buying Egencia in May 2021. Annie Egencia / Wikimedia Commons