How do business travelers book business trips that meet their needs, while staying within corporate travel policies? And what if business travelers want to stay in non-traditional accommodations, such as an Airbnb?
Business travelers can, say, turn to the world of travel agents or consumer online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Expedia. But both can be expensive, and lacking in crucial elements for business travel. Plus, these booking methods can be frustrating for travelers as well as administrators.
Expedia, for example, has a great visual experience – and good inventory – but the site falls short on the business control side,TravelPerk co-founder and CEO Avi Meir told PYMNTS.com in an interview. As a result, Meir sought to build a better business travel booking experience.
While Meir could have tried to attract the attention of C-suite executives in hopes that they would require employees to use the platform, he opted for an alternative strategy: to create a solution that would attract the business travelers themselves.
“We said, ‘Let’s approach it in a completely different way,’” Meir said. “’Let’s build a consumer product that happens to be serving business travelers.’”
With that focus in mind, TravelPerk set out to make a more business traveler-friendly experience. For example, the platform aggregates inventory from across the web, ranging from traditional travel agents to non-traditional solutions, such as Airbnb.
And Barcelona-based TravelPerk offers 24/7 support to its customers. After all, sometimes business travelers just need to speak with a real person on the other end of the line.
That feature could be useful to business travelers who might need to call in to change their flights after cancellations or delays. And others might need to talk with someone to extend their stays when client meetings run late.
But at some points in the booking process, business travelers might not want human interaction. For example, a company may require manual approval for travel arrangements, which could hold up reservations.
To make this process easier, business travers can utilize a decentralized approval option via TravelPerk. Through this system, travelers can choose their own hotels, flights or rental cars that fit their companies’ travel policies using a stored corporate card.
TravelPerk also streamlines the booking process by using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to complete bookings through third-party sites. The company then sends a confirmation to the traveler.
To serve the needs of different customers, TravelPerk has both a free version and a premium paid version, which comes with perks such as more flexible payment terms. With this offering, customers can pay once a month instead of every time a traveler makes a booking.
Either way, TravelPerk takes a commission on the supplier side of the business. For this reason, the site generates revenue from both free and premium users.
“We make money on every transaction we do – even on free [ones],” Meir said. “It’s a very important piece of our strategy.”
To help grow its platform, TravelPerk recently raised $21 million (£15 million) in a Series B round led by Berlin-based Target Global and London’s Felix Capital, bringing the round to $30 million. Earlier investors Spark Capital and Sunstone also participated in the round, alongside new global player Amplo, adding to the early stage backer LocalGlobe. With the funding boost, TravelPerk plans to keep investing in its product and platform, and to continue hiring engineers and designers.
While TravelPerk hasn’t yet had to invest heavily in user acquisition, Meir said the company might do so in order to scale to the next level.
TravelPerk comes to market as the world is changing in its perception of enterprise versus consumer platforms – and not just in the travel industry. While enterprise-level products used to be seen as a badge of quality, that is no longer the case.
Now, it’s consumer solutions that are seen as fast and sleek. As a result, nearly every industry has a consumer bottom-up player, such as TravelPerk, that is disrupting the space.
“That’s why our investors are excited about partnering with us, and that’s the core of our mission,” Meir said. “The main thing we are here to do is to make business travelers happy.”