Custom Travel App Makers Gain Interest

By | May 28, 2015

Corporate travel departments can acquire risk apps, TMC apps, expense apps — and of course also booking and itinerary apps. Some want supplier-agnostic, custom apps but don’t have the resources to build their own. In the market for a little branding, or more? There’s an app maker (or two) for that.

Originally a language translation app, four-year-old TripLingo also is a risk app. It now has features to manage mobile data and roaming expenses, including a Wi-Fi dialer.

“We knew companies wouldn’t pay us for just a mobile phrasebook,” said TripLingo founder and CEO Jesse Maddox. He’s still trying to nail down what exactly they will pay for. The firm has 15 enterprise clients and anticipates that doubling in a few months. Maddox claimed 30 travel management companies are users.

corporate-appsFor the app’s co-branded enterprise version, TripLingo charges a flat rate based on either the total number of trips or total number of travelers in a year. Clients can install their branding as well as contact, policy and insurance information.

Four TripLingo clients spoke with The Company Dime, three on the condition of anonymity. A media company travel manager said the firm recouped its investment in the app within two months. The Wi-Fi dialer alone will save 10 times the app’s cost in the first year, the travel manager said.

A major retailer for six months has been using TripLingo mainly as a risk management application. Its travel buyer said there are some communications savings. Measuring the ROI on travel risk management, of course, is “difficult.”

“We wanted our international travelers to be able to reach our travel agency or medical assistance 24/7 regardless of where they are, over Internet or cellular, with one touch,” said the retail company travel buyer. He said the app’s assisted dialing feature “understands where you are and where you’re trying to call.” It plugs in the correct country code, for example. Of TripLingo’s traditional features, the language translator remains most popular, the buyer said.

Tokyo Electron manager of travel and fleet services Dianne Bradley said savings from the Wi-Fi dialer paid for the app within just a few months of use. “We manage data plans when people travel, but this was an additional savings over that,” said Bradley. “That was one of the more compelling pieces of it.” She said TripLingo’s language translator and cultural/country information also are handy for travelers. Tokyo Electron integrated contact information for its risk management provider, International SOS. The firm also uses the Dash app from its TMC, Travel and Transport.

Dutch firm Roadmap provides custom travel apps for BP and others. This year it’s been talking with big companies in the United States, and has signed a global fashion firm based there.

Roadmap started out within a company called Sound of Data, offering white-label apps to travel distribution companies. Clients include Amadeus and U.K. travel agency group Advantage Business Travel. Like many apps, Roadmap is based on the traveler’s itinerary and incorporates gate and flight alerts, check-in and mapping functions.

TripCase, TripIt and WorldMate are among the notable examples of existing apps that offer those services. Roadmap considers its user experience distinctive — an “interactive travel companion” that “displays any live data on your trip.” Enterprise clients can install their branding as well as their “own tools, offers and suppliers.” Roadmap suggests travel managers can build communities around the app, and use it to gather feedback on supplier services.

The service is priced based on the number of passenger name records imported from the TMC. Custom development for a module that is not already built is based on hourly work, unless it turns into one that can be sold to other clients.

“Nine months ago, one of our TMC customers had a client who was asking for deep customization,” said CEO and co-founder Jeroen van Velzen. “So deep that it didn’t make sense to integrate that into the TMC’s app. That’s how we got started on enterprise apps, and we’re just scratching the surface. We have industrialized the customization. There’s a huge appetite.”

Some travel management companies build custom apps. TSI International’s app offers single sign-on in a wrapper for other apps like Concur, Expensify or TripCase. It also eases texting and calling to agents.

One client is inflight Wi-Fi provider GoGo, for which design is paramount, said TSI vice president of sales DeAnne Dale.

“We work directly with, for example, GoGo’s marketing department so it has all the right visuals, pictures, look and feel, logo,” Dale said. “We build it and do the connectivity but from a visual perspective, it’s all the client’s.”

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Author: Jay Campbell

Jay Campbell in 2004 created travel business newsletter The Beat, in 2006 co-founded Travel Procurement magazine and in 2010 integrated them into Northstar Travel Media's BTN Group. He served as editorial director until 2013. Jay made his travel industry media debut in 1993 at the Air Travel Journal of Boston while earning his undergraduate degree in journalism at Boston University. More on LinkedIn.