Business Travel Show 2018 round-up

The Business Travel Magazine team were out in force at Business Travel Show this week. Read on for more news from the show.

Troop Travel was crowned winner of the 2018 Business Travel Disrupt Award. The company processes a wide range of data to recommend meeting locations for employees coming together from around the world, based on criteria such as cost, convenience and visa requirements. TBTM editor Andy Hoskins was on the judging panel: “The six finalists all had great products, but Troop Travel and runner-up flightsayer were deemed the most innovative, and could make a big impression on the industry,” he said.

Reed & Mackay was showcasing its new mobile booking tool, R&M/Mobile. Its previous offering was largely for trip management purposes, but the new product has full booking capability for air, hotel and ground transport. It also includes check-in and boarding pass wallet, push messaging and a ‘check me in’ facility for travel in volatile destinations. “It’s so easy to use and has great functionality that adoption will be high,” said Group CEO Fred Stratford.

Wings Travel Management is expanding its risk management offering with the introduction of a specialist disaster and crisis response service. It includes traveller evacuation, search and rescue logistics and emergency medical assistance. The TMC says the service will appeal to its multinational clients and SMEs alike, with small businesses in the UK accounting for a growing proportion of Wings’ client portfolio. Customers with annual travel spend of up to £1million now account for 60% of UK turnover following the TMC’s acquisition of Grosvenor Travel in 2016.

United Airlines’ UK Managing Director Bob Schumacher said the airline is now enjoying the manifestation of significant investment in recent years. “It’s night and day compared to where we were ten years ago,” he said, highlighting the roll-out of new Polaris seating, lounge refurbishments, improved customer service and the imminent announcement of a premium economy product. The airline is launching seasonal services between London Heathrow and Denver (March 25 to October 27) and from Edinburgh to Washington DC (May 24 to October 4) this summer.

Oakwood Worldwide is further expanding with new technology, growth in its leadership team, more corporate accounts beyond Europe and a series of openings in Asia this year. They include the 40-unit Nishi-Shinjuku in Tokyo and the 185-room Shin Osaka, plus a property in Yangzhou, China. “We have a foothold in Asia and we’re making use of it, it’s a great expanding market,” says new Director of Sales EMEA, Juliet Howie.
Chrome River has introduced PROSPER, which allows businesses to detect patterns in spend on travel and entertainment and translate them into better customer relationships and revenue. The software ties expense information with sales opportunities from Salesforce via a set of dashboards so businesses can accurately analyse return on investment by spend type, customer and team member.
Amadeus is integrating its Cytric self-booking tool into the Amadeus mobile platform. “We have combined both products from business and leisure into the Amadeus platform”, says Ghassan Teffaha, Global Head of Sales & Partnerships of Amadeus' mobile division. “Customers are excited as the app was missing the corporate stamp and this is the first piece of the puzzle that goes into it.” He added that in March they will add in expense capture and push messaging will be available from April. “We are seeing a demand for travellers to have one app to rule them all.”

Star Alliance’s new Digital Services Platform enables its member airlines to incorporate the data of fellow Star carriers in their own apps. “Most frequent travellers have a ‘home airline’ in our network and would prefer to control their entire travel experience through a single app or website,” says Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh. “We are therefore working to create central capabilities that can be shared for use by our individual members.” United and Lufthansa are already live, while Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines are introducing functionality this spring.

• Delta Air Lines is relaunching seasonal services from London Heathrow to Portland and Salt Lake City this summer, strengthening its joint venture with Virgin Atlantic. Between them they will operate 26 daily departures from Heathrow to destinations across the US this summer. The airline has recently added RFID baggage tracking on flights from Heathrow; is offering an increasing number of hand baggage-only fares; and upping its wifi offering. “We have wifi on the vast majority of our aircraft and we are upgrading the speed. Our situation is market leading,” said Corneel Koster, Senior VP EMEA and India. Joint venture relations between Delta, Virgin, Air France-KLM and Alitalia will also deepen in 2018, with the realignment of transatlantic schedules and ownership transactions. With regards NDC developments, Koster says the airline will not favour one distribution channel over another.

• Click Travel is urging companies to “ask for more” in a new campaign that highlights the pace of change in the industry. “You should ask for more personalisation, more connections to your suppliers, more online management and more choice,” says CEO Jill Palmer. “Clients want a consumer-like experience and we have a world-class engineering team that is helping deliver that.” Palmer also believes that travel booking will fundamentally change: “We don’t think the future is app-related. It will instead be using the platform of your choice to book travel.” As a wave of mergers grip the TMC sector, Click is also looking to expand. “I’m not interested in buying turnover – we’re growing 30% annually – but we don’t have a global offering and that is something that’s on our three-year plan. Global is a massive untapped market for us,” says Palmer.

• Evolvi Rail Systems is now providing TMC customers with auto-refund capability. It will enable users to process both standard orange paper tickets and unused mTickets and eTickets. Previously, mobile ticketing issued via TMCs was restricted to non-refundable Advance. The company has also seen the average value of tickets booked through its system fall from £57.02 to £56.82 across 2017. “TMCs and their corporate users are increasingly recognising the value of a managed travel environment when it comes to rail,” says Evolvi’s Managing Director, Ken Cameron, “and the ATV reduction is all the more satisfying given that businesses are not always in a position to book rail journeys a long time in advance.”

• Groundscope, the ground transport booking specialist, has added access to Blacklane’s professional driver service in more than 250 cities across 50 countries. “Blacklane broadens corporate travel managers’ options to book reliable, safe and affordable ground transportation,” says John McCallion, CEO of GroundScope. “Blacklane fills the gap for GroundScope’s global travellers needing premium rides at reasonable fares. It is ideal for airport transfers, train station transfers and rides to and from conferences and company offices.”

FCM and Corporate Traveller, sister companies in the Flight Centre Travel Group, launched new booking tools and tech suites at BTS. FCM introduced a new online booking platform called Seeqa, giving users access to increased options and functionality, aggregating GDS and non-GDS content, as well as FCM’s own content, all within one access point. Meanwhile Corporate Traveller, which specialises in clients with an annual travel spend of between £50,000 and £2million, says its new YOUR.CT platform gives travellers, bookers and managers access to a booking tool, approvals system, profile management, traveller tracking and alerts, travel policy, reporting and invoice data all through one portal.