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ExCeL London - 24-25 February 2021
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TravelPerk's Jean-Christophe Taunay-Bucalo talks:
Amid the startups seeking to disrupt the travel booking and
management space, TravelPerk has stood out for a several reasons, not the least
of which is $65 million in investor financing over the past year and change. TravelPerk's
plans for deploying that capital also are drawing notice. It has earmarked the recent
windfall to drive growth initiatives, including scaling up its workforce
and increasing its presence in high-potential markets like London,
while bolstering its platform with new booking integrations, including rail
ticketing specialist Trainline.
TravelPerk chief commercial officer Jean-Christophe Taunay-Bucalo spoke with
BTN technology editor Adam Perrotta.
BTN: How does TravelPerk differentiate itself in a
competitive travel management space?
Taunay-Bucalo: We want to help businesses and their
travelers take ownership over the entire booking and management process, as
simply as possible. We've created a seamless experience for booking and
managing business travel end to end, like our favorite leisure travel tools,
but one that has the power to support booking, reporting, expensing, customer
care—everything. We offer the world's largest travel inventory … alongside
robust management features and a 24/7, 365 days a year human customer support.
As a complete package, on one platform, it's something we haven't seen anywhere
else, so it stands us apart from the competition. What's more, we've maintained
a relentless focus on keeping seven-star customer care in-house, consistently
investing in customer support. Currently, the TravelPerk team is about 260, and
roughly half of that team is focused solely on supporting customers.
BTN: That sounds expensive. Why not outsource or use
Taunay-Bucalo: It's a huge expense for us. But
providing amazing customer support is essential in business travel. For
instance, I'm sure most people can remember a time when something's gone wrong
on a trip and they've been connected to an automated system or chat function
and felt like throwing their phone against the wall. We believe being able to
talk to a person who wants to help takes away this anxiety, so we'll never
outsource the customer-facing side of the company. We think a combination of
the best self-serve tool with amazing 24/7 support from real humans is what
will be the winning solution in the market.
BTN: What's your revenue model?
Taunay-Bucalo: Revenue currently comes from affiliate
commissions … but also, we've introduced a premium service option for customers
who have special requirements. That being said, we're very strict in our
processes. We will not promote specific content because it brings us more
margin, and we will not mark up prices. Our commitment is that when you book on
TravelPerk, it will be at least the same price, if not cheaper, than booking on
a consumer website. This trust is essential because travelers have been burned
with overpricing from travel agencies. We'll go as far as booking any flight or
hotel manually if the traveler finds it cheaper. That's how deeply we believe
in the inventory we've built.
BTN: Travel buyers desire a full picture of their
travel spend to guide budgeting decisions and calculate ROI for travel spend.
How do you help your clients access these types of data insights?
Taunay-Bucalo: Honestly, it's incredibly simple for
TravelPerk customers. We have one platform for everything from booking to
expensing to reporting. It means any CFO or travel budget manager can drop into
the self-service trip and budget analytics anytime. It generates reports that
look at everything from travel spend to trends across their travelers right
down to the granularity of looking at what falls outside of their travel
policy. What's more, administrators on TravelPerk can easily set their own
travel policy parameters within the system, preventing employees from booking
trips outside of policy and allowing businesses to quickly spot where tweaks
need to be made.
BTN: TravelPerk has racked up quite a bit of funding
over the past year or so and seems to be in expansion mode. What's your
strategy for managing growth?
Taunay-Bucalo: We're making a large investment in
growing the team to keep pace with our growing customer base. Currently, we
have a team of 260, and we'll probably finish the year with around 400. If we
keep this pace, we'll be 1,000 in just a couple of years. Most of us are based
out of the Barcelona HQ, but we now also have offices in London and Berlin with
plans to expand our physical presence to new markets this year, both for sales
and management support.
BTN: Are there any specific markets you're looking to
Taunay-Bucalo: We're experts in the complexities of
operating across Europe, a typically fragmented market with many cultural
nuances that have to be accounted for, so we'll definitely be opening more
local offices in the region. While our service is available globally, including
covering travel in the U.S., our approach is to primarily serve European
companies that travel globally.
BTN: You're serving clients up to the small
enterprise level. What are the challenges of serving that size of client?
right, we see our sweet spot as those companies with between 10 and 15,000
travelers because that's the segment TravelPerk can add the most value to.
Actually, there are unique challenges when speaking to companies with no
solution in place. These businesses are not always aware of the cost and pain
[that] having no travel solution can bring to their business and so don't see
business travel as a priority. However, usually, larger companies have an
existing system in place with a traditional TMC. Our model is different, as
most of the booking will be done online, so we need to educate the traveler
about using the platform and support companies in rollout. It's not uncommon
for them to have inherited negative preconceived notions. However, once they
start using, the adoption is fantastic, at 97 percent for online booking.
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