Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Business Travel

Corporate Lodging Platform HRS Buys Expense Startup PayPense

6 days ago

Corporate hotel booking platform HRS has bought PayPense, as it pushes further into expense management.

Terms of the deal, announced on Thursday, weren’t disclosed, but the acquisition follows its purchase of billing company Itelya in 2021.

Staff at Germany’s PayPense will officially become HRS Pay employees when the acquisition formally closes in August.

Interestingly, HRS now describes itself as a “global corporate travel and payment technology platform.” HRS, which stands for Hotel Reservation Service, said buying PayPense enhances its “growing compilation of efficient corporate payment offerings.”

PayPense is used by companies to let employees use digital payment technology to pay for all work-related purchases. That helps ensure compliance to budgets while also capturing relevant data for auditing, steering and even sustainability metrics, the company said. Using supplier and localized data, PayPense can capture carbon emissions of individual expenses.

“With the full integration of PayPense, our complete end-to-end spend management platform provides unmatched visibility of level-3 data, multi-category invoice digitization, and superior VAT reclaim automation — all available globally via any payment provider,” said said Kurt Knackstedt, chief growth officer at HRS Pay.

Business Travel

Uber’s $30 Billion Quarter Shows the Travel Recovery Is Well Underway

1 week ago

Taxi tech company Uber has just recorded its busiest quarter, with gross bookings reaching an all-time high of $29.1 billion in the three months to June 30, 2022. That number’s up 33 percent on the same period last year.

However, losses prevail. Uber posted a net loss of $2.6 billion, with a $1.7 billion net headwind relating to its equity investments, mostly tied to the revaluation of its Aurora, Grab and Zomato stakes. The net loss also includes $470 million in stock-based compensation expense.

For its first quarter it reported a net loss of $5.9 billion, so the momentum is there, particularly from its business travel division.

Overall, trips during the quarter grew 24 percent year-on-year to 1.87 billion, or 21 million trips per day. Revenue grew 105 percent to $8.1 billion, compared to the 2021 first quarter. There was a slower pace of growth for its food delivery unit though, where gross bookings grew 7 percent year-on-year to $13.9 billion.

That may be because fewer employees are ordering takeaways, and instead jumping in an Uber to get to the office. Uber for Business revenue almost doubled in the quarter, growing 105 percent year-on-year to $8.1 billion.

Managed Uber for Business, its “actively managed” portion of the business through Uber’s account managers and sales team, represented 29 percent of Uber for Business’s gross bookings, compared to 25 percent in the second quarter of 2021.

“We’re really selling to significant enterprise customers out there, both in the tech space and the non-tech space,” said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi during an earnings call on Tuesday.

“A lot of these enterprises, some of them are going back to returning to office, some of them are not … the champion use case that we’re seeing with U4B is essentially the business traveler getting out on the road again. And obviously, a sales call over Zoom is one thing, but if the salesperson comes in to see you in person, it gives a different impression and we’re seeing our U4B clients invest in getting their teams on the road.”

Airport traffic was also recovering, growing 139 percent year-on-year, and 49 percent on the first quarter.

The results came out just a day before it launched Uber Travel in the UK, which includes a tie-up with Omio.

In June, Uber for Business said it was taking steps to make it easier for travel managers to nudge their organizations into more sustainable modes of transport, including price-matching Uber Green trips against UberX.

Airlines

Heathrow Airport Gets Caught Up in Another Storm

4 weeks ago

Airports can do no right at the moment, caught between passengers baying for blood and airlines that just want to fly people.

On Friday Frankfurt Airport became the latest hub to cut flights in a bid to ease delays and cancellations.

But London’s Heathrow, which is the UK’s biggest airport, is under fire for taking action it hopes will improve operations.

As Emirates rejects its passenger cap, one UK-based association has called Heathrow’s plan an “outrage.”

“The Heathrow passenger cap is an outrage for business and leisure travelers,” said Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association. “The arbitrary daily passenger number has been selected done without consultation with airlines and the wider travel community. This is a betrayal of all UK travelers, leaving airlines, travel management companies and travel agents to pick up the pieces.”

He called for Heathrow to be more “transparent about their problems.”

Two UK government bodies, the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority, have also requested John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO, provides a “credible” recovery plan to get the airport back to business, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Global Business Travel Association is putting pressure on the European Commission to address staff shortages.

It argued “business travel momentum” was being threatened because the current six-week background checks required for employees working at airports and in the airline sector was causing a bottleneck. 

“Staff shortages are having a significant impact on travel programs and are threatening to affect the speed and trajectory of recovery of the business travel industry,” said Catherine Logan, regional vice president, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “The Global Business Travel Association is calling on the European Commission to prioritize and expedite the needed safety background checks to help alleviate the pressure at airports.”

The UK has already accelerated national security checks for new airport employees, but will that be enough for Heathrow? Passenger numbers are set to soar in a couple of weeks when families begin their summer vacations, which could compound an already complex situation.

Business Travel

Australian Corp Travel Agency CTM Notches Up Yet Another Acquisition to Expand in U.S.

1 month ago

Australia’s Corporate Travel Management has bought 1000 Mile Travel Group in an all-share transaction.

Terms of the deal were not fully disclosed, but on Friday CTM issued 106,336 fully paid ordinary shares to Zazi Pty Ltd, in its capacity as trustee of the Zazi Investment Trust, as part consideration for the acquisition of 1000 Mile Travel Group.

This element values the deal at more than $1.3 million.

Founded in 2015, 1000 Mile Travel Group is a network of independent travel experts who handle corporate, group, cruise and leisure bookings.

CTM said the acquisition will help it expand its “independent consultant footprint” in the small and medium enterprise market in Australia, the UK and North America a region where it’s been heavily investing over the past two years.

CTM snapped up U.S.-based Travel and Transport for $195 million in September 2020, months after acquiring Texas-based Corporate Travel Planners.

Closer to home it recently bought Melbourne-based Helloworld Corporate for $127 million.

The deal comes at a time when travel management companies are desperately seeking to recruit more consultants to cope with renewed demand for business trips.

“Our business was established to meet the needs of the independent corporate travel business owner market, and our business model has grown from strength to strength,” said Ben Ross, 1000 Mile Travel founder and managing director. “That model has never been more in demand than it is in the post-pandemic environment, and we’re excited to take the next step of our growth journey with CTM.”

CTM founder and managing director Jamie Pherous added the agency was “well-placed to expand the 1000 Mile Travel model into our largest markets of North America and the UK.”

Business Travel

Microsoft Enters New Phase of Amadeus Collaboration With Cytric Booking Tool Deal

1 month ago

Software giant Microsoft, a close collaborator of technology firm Amadeus, is moving its employees over to its Cytric online booking tool, which they will now use to plan, book and change business trips.

This deal follows a similar client win with Accenture, with the consulting giant also a close partner in helping Amadeus integrate deeper into Microsoft’s 365 platform, including Teams and Outlook.

Microsoft will roll out Cytric to a selected group of employees first, with the initial phase including the rollout of Cytric Easy and the integration of Cytric Travel into Microsoft 365.

“This milestone lays another foundation block for integrating technology into the travel booking and in destination experience,” said Eric Bailey, global travel director for Microsoft. “We want to simplify every aspect of business travel for our employees, Cytric does this with its intuitive user experience.”

In 2020, Microsoft spent was $44.2 million on flights in the U.S., down 85 percent from its $275 million 2019 volume, according to a BTN ranking, which noted its booking tool was SAP Concur in that year.

Amadeus announced the global strategic partnership with Microsoft in 2021. It includes migrating to cloud technology, as well as exploring new products and solutions, including leveraging its Xbox gaming console’s virtual reality capabilities to explore the metaverse, and potentially adding travel features to LinkedIn.

Rudy Daniello, executive vice president at Amadeus Cytric Solutions, added Cytric would help “push the boundaries of what the corporate travel sector has seen until this point.”

In 2020, Amadeus rival Sabre announced a partnership with Google.

Airlines

Amex GBT, Accenture and Shell Partner on New Sustainable Fuel Platform

2 months ago

American Express Global Business Travel, Shell and Accenture have teamed up to launch Avelia, a so-called book-and-claim platform designed to help businesses buy sustainable aviation fuel.

The book and claim model allows companies to pay for the fuel, and claim the benefits, even if it’s not available at their departure airport. The fuel is instead fed into another aircraft in an airport where available.

The goal is to drive down the costs of a fuel that’s between two and eight times dearer than conventional jet fuel.

“Once book-and-claim is approved by industry bodies as an acceptable form of emissions reduction, Avelia could enable airlines and companies who choose sustainable aviation fuel to authenticate, record and report the associated emissions reduction benefits of the fuel towards their voluntary environmental, social, and corporate governance reporting, regardless of where in the world the fuel is used to fuel a flight,” the company said.

The model is also used when purchasing “green electricity” and has been described as one of the most suitable solutions by the European Union. “It balances the fuel’s technical potential, the administrative burden for the aviation industry and fundamental EU Emissions Trading System requirements, like fraud protection,” according to one study.

Drop in the Ocean

The road to decarbonizing business trips is a long one, however. It’s still hard to tell if there’s any meaningful impact. The fuel is still very expensive, and as a pilot program, Avelia will initially offer one million gallons of the fuel, which it claimed was enough to power almost 15,000 individual business traveler flights from London-to-New York.

Overall this pilot wants to demonstrate the credibility of the book-and-claim model. Avelia was developed by Shell and Accenture, with the support of the Energy Web Foundation, but wants to tap into the buying power of Amex GBT’s 19,000 customers.

Will they pay the premium?

“Sustainable aviation fuel is a key enabler of decarbonisation in the aviation industry, and it’s available today. However, it’s currently scarce and costs more than conventional jet fuel,” said Jan Toschka, president of Shell Aviation. “Avelia will help trigger demand for sustainable aviation fuel at scale, providing confidence to suppliers like us to further increase investment in production, and in turn helping to lower the price point for these fuels.”

Amex GBT recently formed an alliance with Shell to help increase the supply of sustainable aviation fuel.

Shell has committed to purchasing the environmental attributes equivalent to 100,000 gallons of the fuel over the pilot phase. It said it would increase that as soon as more of the fuel is available, as it wants to abate 45 percent of its corporate travel emissions through sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

Sustainable aviation fuel can be made from plant or animal material, and can reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80 percent compared to conventional jet fuel

“We’re calling on all companies to join us and share the costs and benefits of sustainable aviation fuel across the travel and aviation sectors,” said Paul Abbott, CEO of Amex GBT.

United Airlines and United Airlines Ventures last week announced they were buying at least 300 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from utilization company Dimensional Energy over a period of 20 years. United aims to be a “100 percent green net zero” by 2050, without the use of traditional carbon offsets.

On Sunday, Qantas Airways and Airbus said they would invest up to $200 million to accelerate the development of a sustainable aviation fuels industry in Australia to help meet the airline’s goal of lowering carbon emissions.

Business Travel

International Business Travel Unlikely to Recover Until 2026 — Report

2 months ago

Despite the euphoria around the return of international business travel, a data analytics firm has predicted a gloomier outlook.

GlobalData has said it is unlikely to recover until at least 2026.

It’s singled out the complexity of business travel, which it said still faces several added layers of complexity that affect consumer behaviour, purchase decisions, and general operations.

“Despite some encouraging signs of revival for the overall travel industry in 2022, the business travel sector is witnessing a slower-than-expected recovery, particularly regarding international travel,” it reported.

Those challenges will persist over the next four years, it said, adding that another prominent disruption was the rising cost of living fuelled by the ongoing energy crisis, due to “low energy reserves due to the pandemic and the current geopolitical situation between Russia and Ukraine.”

These increased energy costs are putting further pressure on businesses that are seeing operational overheads soar, with the result that business travel is no longer a priority for companies, it claimed.

Its Tourism Demands and Flows Database also found that international business travel fell by 78.4 percent in 2020, before falling a further 7.9 percent in 2021.

Business Travel

Oyo’s Homeground Boost From 1,250 New Corporate Customers

2 months ago

Oyo has said it has won 1,250 corporate clients in the past three months across India, as business travel recovers in the country.

The new wins come from small and medium enterprises, traditional business houses and conglomerates, startups and travel management companies. Film production houses have also emerged as a key customer category, it said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The company added that it had engaged with 2,800 offline travel agents since January 2021.

Top cities include Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Pune and Delhi.
Its Business Accelerator division has serviced over 6,600 corporate clients since January 2021, it added.

“The appetite for business travel has returned strongly since the frequent change in travel restrictions has ebbed, making travel planning for business trips more certain and predictable. For a lot of our corporate customers, conducting business over virtual meetings was a stop gap and sub-optimal solution,” said Ankit Gupta, CEO of OYO, India.

Compared to leisure bookers, the startup’s business customers receive curated stay options, personalised customer support and integration with their accounting system.

The extra boost comes as Oyo delays its IPO — potentially until 2023. Earlier this month Oyo acquired Dubrovnik, Croatia-headquartered Direct Booker, which has 3,200 homes.

Business Travel

Amex GBT Shares Climb 13 Percent After First Day Trading

2 months ago

A smooth, steady start for American Express Global Business Travel during its stock market debut.

The world’s largest corporate travel agency listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, under the ticket symbol GBTG, following a business combination deal with Apollo Strategic Growth Capital. The parties initially announced the combination on December 3, 2021.

Shares opened at $7.55 on its first day as a public company. They closed higher at $8.37 after its first day trading on Tuesday.

“We have a significant growth opportunity ahead of us,” said CEO Paul Abbott in a LinkedIn post Tuesday. “As a public company, we have the flexibility to realise Amex GBT’s full potential.”

It was only on May 27, the Friday before the Memorial weekend, that Amex GBT announced it would begin trading on Tuesday. That followed Apollo Strategic Growth Capital shareholders voting to approve its combination with Amex GBT days earlier, on May 25.

As part of its go-public merger, Amex GBT received $335 million from a PIPE, or private investment in public equity, deal with new investors including Zoom, Sabre and private equity group Ares Management.

They join existing backers American Express, Expedia and Certares. Only 15 percent of the company’s stock is expected to be owned by public shareholders.

Investors will be betting on the recovery of corporate travel, which despite rising air fares seems to be on track to exceed spending last seen in 2019 by the end of the year. In April, Amex GBT execs sought to assure investors that the pandemic was just a blip for corporate travel.

They may have just pulled it off.

“For far too long the darlings of travel, like Booking.com and Expedia, have been the focus. With Amex GBT using their SPAC to go public, it now brings corporate travel as a sector and a place to work to the forefront of people’s minds,” said Gavin Smith, director of Element Travel Technology. “It might even help bring those who left, back to the sector. Corporate travel now sits where it should always have done, side by side with leisure.”

However, one investor who wished to remain anonymous told Skift: “We ended up deciding to not participate since the valuation relative to some of the other things we are seeing in the market wasn’t as compelling. It’s a good business with nice tailwinds, it’s just there are more interesting things to be invested in right now.”

Business Travel

TripActions Wants to Raise Even More Money — Reports

3 months ago

Corporate travel agency TripActions is looking to secure more funds, according to Bloomberg.

It said the startup was looking towards a $9 billion valuation.

The startup is reportedly in talks for a new round of funding at a higher valuation because investors are more keen on private technology companies due to the declining value of publicly-traded shares.

There’s also interest because travel is rebounding at a faster than expected rate.

Bloomberg said a spokesperson for TripActions declined to comment.

TripActions raised $275 million in October from investors including Greenoaks Capital Management, Base Partners and entrepreneur Elad Gil, giving it a $7.25 billion valuation.

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