BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
TripActions VP of supplier relations & alliances Bob
Twenty-one year BCD Travel/Advito executive Bob Brindley has
left the mega travel management company and consultancy to join artificial
intelligence-driven travel app provider TripActions. He will broker supply-side
relationships for the startup, both with content partners and product licensing
with agency partners. Currently, TripActions aggregates content from Sabre,
Expedia and Priceline and overlays AI to deliver corporate policy-compliant
travel itineraries that also account for traveler loyalty and historical
behavior. At the same time, the app delivers a trip-specific cost to beat,
based on real-time content options, and it rewards travelers in a points-based
system for booking under that target. BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West caught
up with Brindley.
BTN: Moving from
a mega TMC and consultancy to a tech startup is major. What prompted the move?
wasn’t looking to make a move, but the TripActions product tracks with major
trends in the marketplace, and it was a unique opportunity for me to be a
BTN: What trends
Brindley: I saw
the small and midmarket being underserved. The big TMCs don't have the product
to serve them and don't want to, while the regional TMCs lack the resources to
do a good job with them. So there's a significant segment of the market not
getting what they need in terms of managing business travel. That's the segment
TripActions is going after. Also, traveler engagement is increasingly
important. Travelers require better communication with their travel
departments, and companies that can achieve this get better control. Building
on that engagement [and using] traveler incentives as a way to drive savings
and compliance bridge the long-standing disconnect between corporate and
traveler objectives that creates a number of inefficiencies and lowers traveler
satisfaction. Outdated policies and technology can't keep up with these kinds
of market dynamics, but TripActions is offering an end-to-end solution that
touches all of this.
BTN: Why aren't
TMCs doing it?
want to, but the large managed programs can be incredibly complex. Given the
technology they have to work with—both the GDS technology and their internal
technologies—they can do it, but it takes them longer.
TripActions handle large, complex programs?
Brindley: We are
not going after $200 million accounts right now. When we do have to cross that
bridge, we'll have better tech to do that.
BTN: Tell me how
you see that journey playing out.
we are looking at an entry point at the small and midmarket, the product can
serve the needs of larger clients. We have already seen small and midsized
clients grow rapidly. Last year, [our average client maybe had] $1 million in
managed travel. This year, that goes to $4 million, next year $10 million and
the year after, it could be $20 million. Four of our clients have market
[capitalizations] of over a billion dollars. While their travel is small today,
it won't be small forever. We will grow with them.
BTN: How are
supplier partners responding to the opportunities?
Brindley: Part of
my role will be looking at direct connect with hotels and car rentals and
airline companies that could add another layer of content. And we are looking
at other content providers in the marketplace, as well. There's a lot of work
to be done. The suppliers we've talked to have been very interested. They've
seen our accelerated growth: In the first quarter this year, total clients on
board had $20 million in travel budget under management. By the end of the year,
it will be $120 million, and by the end of next year, it will be $500 million.
Those are huge numbers for two-year growth, and the plan is to continue.
BTN: What about
agencies that want to get on the AI train?
Brindley: We have
partnership opportunities with agencies. They might license the product to sell
to clients or use it [internally]. Some of that larger market opportunity could
be covered by alliances and partnerships, as well.
is already a hybrid-type product and service. It has agents and offers human
intervention for clients, correct?
company started as a technology company, taking advantage of the latest
technology available to build a better platform and program. They realized
right away, however, that they needed to be a TMC. We use AI to be proactive
and identify [travel] problems and take action to reaccommodate travelers or
call hotels about a late arrival. We want to be able to do that before the
traveler knows they need it. If necessary, travelers can key into TripActions
agents through call or chat or a videoconference. There's a huge service
travel concierge products are forming a fairly crowded market. You're competing
against Mezi, 30SecondsToFly, HelloGbye, Pana, Lola and plenty of others. What
makes TripActions different?
Brindley: All those are potential competitors, but they
are looking at one [element] of the industry. TripActions has pulled it all
together with an end-to-end solution. It's not just policy and artificial
intelligence; it's not just an incentive like Rockettrip that overlays an
existing program. It's truly end to end.
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