Amid Innovation And Disruption, Travel And T&E Strive Toward An Omnichannel Ideal.
By PYMTS 21 January 2020
The first part of 2020 has brought some significant activity in the world of travel — activity that could, in the coming months and years, further influence how consumers travel, and how they buy and pay for their trips.
The latest travel-related news emerged on Tuesday (Jan. 21) that Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC), which says it “provides channel-agnostic tools and insights to help the global travel community connect, grow and thrive,” had taken a majority stake in nuTravel, described as a “leading developer of applications that provide airlines with online retailing solutions with enhanced features to support travel agency services.”
Functioning as a subsidiary of ARC, nuTravel will enable its new parent to, according to a statement about the deal, “accelerate its offerings of feature-rich, omnichannel retailing solutions to airlines, travel agencies and corporate travelers to provide an integrated customer experience. ARC’s nuTravel investment continues to expand the suite of solutions for the end-to-end air travel journey, by combining its expertise with those of Blockskye and Traxo, in which ARC also recently invested.”
As PYMNTS had previous covered, way back in 2017, cloud-based travel and expense report management solution Certify bought nuTravel in a deal designed to enable Certify to launch a new solution using nuTravel technology. That offering, called Certify Enterprise Travel, was meant complement Certify’s existing Certify Travel booking solution, the company said. The general ideal of these deals and other recent developments in the travel space is to bring more of an omnichannel, connected-economy flavor to the massive travel industry, to build paths via its various corners and give the industry’s various consumers — whether individuals or corporations, pleasure-seekers or business travelers — more ways to shop and buy from various channels, and in a seamless manner.
Another example of striving toward that ideal came earlier this January. That’s when six corporate travel expense management and accounts payable (AP) solution providers announced they would join forces and combine into a single company called Emburse, according to a press release. Abacus, Captio, Certify, Chrome River, Nexonia and Tallie are merging together to integrate each other’s T&E and accounts payable (AP) solutions. The newly-created company will reportedly serve some 4.5 million users across 120 countries.
Indeed, as the deal is envisioned, the new company will benefit from the sharing of technologies that include such areas as real-time expenses, sophisticated data capture and extraction and deep integrations with corporate cards.
“We are so much stronger as one company,” said new Emburse CEO Eric Friedrichsen. “With significant scale and disruptive technology, we’re redefining how organizations view travel and expense management and AP automation. We will continue to actively support and will increase our rate of innovation on each of our six core expense solutions which are uniquely tailored for specific industries, company sizes and geographies.”
That deal reflects larger and longstanding trends in travel in general, and T&E in particular. After all, the corporate T&E space has undergone noteworthy consolidation in recent years, a move that is clearly continuing into 2020.
Take one older example: K1 Investment Management back in 2017 said it would use a $125 million investment to merge Nexonia, ExpenseWatch and Tallie all under the Certify brand, following the 2016 merger of Tallie and Nexonia. That’s not all. American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) has bought several business travel technology firms — the most recent such deal involved DER Business Travel, which is based in Germany.
Looking outside the B2B travel and corporate T&E worlds, other travel trends are also taking shape — trends that reflect the desires of younger consumers and which are in many cases anchored to the concept of omnichannel and connected commerce and payments. According to the latest PYMNTS Commerce Connected Playbook, for example, millennials can comprise 20 percent of travelers around the world depending on the type of travel involved. And those consumers tend to especially like mobile apps that make it more seamless to book and pay for travel — a factor for further travel innovation and disruption.
Other Areas of Change
But millennials are hardly the only force for change in the broader travel industry. Gen X consumers, though seemingly operating in the oft-forgotten gap between millennials and baby boomers, are seeing their preferences reflected in some travel industry innovations.
As PYMNTS research has documented, some 80 percent of Generation X travelers cite cost effectiveness as their most important travel priority. And that, in turn, is leading some travel platforms to provide consumers with less expensive and more flexible booking options by taking new approaches to hotel reservations.
That includes Splitty Travel. The travel industry operator allows consumers to combine two different rate plans to create a single itinerary for their stays. Cost savings isn’t the only potentially attractive feature, however. In a further sign of the push toward connected but seamless experiences in travel, the platform enables splitting and matching between meal plans in addition to cancellation policies. In a prior PYMNTS interview, Splitty Co-Founder and CEO Eran Shust said the aim is to bring more options to the table and enable travelers to “choose something not out of the specific package[s] that most of the OTAs [online travel agencies] are offering.”
Many consumers might be experiencing the dreary, frigid days of winter right now, but a good portion of those consumers — and many businesses, no doubt — are starting to plan their upcoming vacations, or are busy booking corporate trips and conference stays. You can bet they will face an increasingly connected and omnichannel shopping and buying experience.