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AlternAtive trAvel tools

Doing it

DiFFerentlY Companies eschewing the services of traditional TMCs are welcoming the rise of alternative travel management tools, writes Gillian Upton


o the names Lola Travel, Upside or Little Emperors mean anything to you? If they don’t now they will do very soon as they are among a clutch of different digital disruptors entering the managed travel space. As travellers demand more control over their travel so these alternative travel management tools may play a part. It’s a recognition that not all bookings will be channelled through a TMC. Upside, a Washington DC start-up company, with BCD providing a call centre, rewards travellers with gift cards via a mobile app when they save their company money on their travel bookings by purchasing flight and hotel packages. Typically the saving is around 15%. The product is geared to SMEs and those in the unmanaged travel space who are willing to be flexible in their travel plans. With a series of questions, Upside tests just how much your flexibility is worth and is currently geared to US-originating trips. 16

Since 2009, meanwhile, members of Little Emperors have been promised savings too, from the company’s 5,000+ partners. It promises a direct discount from the hotel’s online BAR rate or a fixed corporate rate valid throughout the year. Its rates are non-commissionable and hotels in the programme include The Connaught in London, Mandarin Oriental in New York, The Peninsula in Paris, the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam and the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

With a series of questions, Upside tests how much your flexibility is worth. The typical saving is 15% and the product is geared to SMEs”

A team of in-house concierges makes the booking and there is a discounted corporate membership tier for ten or more users of £180pp on travel bookings only. Another entrant, launched in 2015 from its Barcelona headquarters as a web-based tool that claims to have all the major airlines (including LCCs) and over 800,000 hotels on its database, all bookable 24/7 from one single tool. It offers pre-trip approval, creates profiles and accepts credit cards or issues monthly invoices. Bookings integrate with expense management partners (such as Expensify), and it offers travel budget reporting too. It can display and bill prices in all of the world’s currencies. The system can also reward travellers for booking below their dynamically created budget by facilitating a reward calculation and redemption store. It claims companies can save over 30% on travel costs in this way, as well as freeing up to 80% of bookers/travellers’ time. 

The Business Travel Magazine February-March 2017  

The multi-award-winning publication written and produced for bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers of business travel and meetings. This I...