Corporate booking tech developer NexTravel partnered with little-known travel management company W Travel to go after multinationals. Related to a provider of premium-class services to business travelers, W is investing to compete with the megas. NexTravel will retain other TMC partners, notably Atlas Travel and Technology Group.
You will find bold proclamations in the NextTravel-W Travel announcement, but they’re just getting started.
The partners promise easy setup with global, 24/7 support and fulfillment. They intend to offer consistent pricing across markets. They claim their fees for reporting and service are lower than market averages. They cite an “already impressive” portfolio of “fast-growth, new-age” multinational clients. A handful will be testing the solution in the coming months. NexTravel has some currency and language programming to do. It’s still building connections for non-GDS content.
The target is small and medium enterprises that are growing and expanding internationally. “Most boutique agencies are only serving the U.S. market and not looking abroad,” according to NexTravel founder and CEO Wen-Wen Lam.
W Travel CEO Sarosh Waghmar identifies newly built infrastructure as an advantage. While larger TMCs years ago developed a “follow the sun” service approach for some large clients, W is essentially starting there. Waghmar said agents are always available from offices in Bombay, Hong Kong, London and the United States (Houston, New York, San Francisco). They use customer relationship management built with Microsoft Outlook. Traveler profiles and travel reservations mainly run through Sabre (with some on Amadeus). They move bookings geographically between points of sale to get the best pricing and availability. A joint venture with Frosch provides what Waghmar calls “big-boy corporate discounts.” Account management is organized in teams to cover time zones.
Waghmar attacked traditional multinational solutions for failing to deliver consistent reporting and service. W’s “proprietary” global platform allegedly streamlines those. “If you’re global, why are you getting reports on different platforms in Australia and London?” Waghmar asked.
Travel management consultants corroborated that there is persistent dissatisfaction among some corporate buyers on service and data reporting consistency from existing players.
Turning to service, Waghmar said, “Nothing is outsourced. No one is working in the middle of Idaho. We have actual people coming in at 10 p.m. and leaving at 7 a.m. ‘After hours’ and all that? We’ll never have it.”
KesselRun Corporate Travel Solutions partner Brandon Strauss said it would be unfair to say TMCs have not been innovating on service configurations. Use of home-based agents is commonplace. The call center is “old school,” he said.
“The difference is that ‘after hours’ for a lot of providers is really considered part of the core service model,” said Strauss. “You have the same service-level agreements as the regular service, and in some cases they stagger schedules for their normal agents. So you have a bank of five agents — one might be on after hours one week a month. An agent who knows you. The idea that TMCs haven’t tackled the after-hours challenge is generally untrue. The bigger problem is not so much after hours but the emergency services, where phone calls get stacked up.”
Corporate Travel Buyer Resources principal Donald Swartz said W Travel’s approach is “exactly what I’ve been telling ‘super regionals’ they need to do to survive. All they need is four to six locations, but they need to own them and then can probably service 80 percent of global companies. They can legally do cross-border ticketing and get lower rates. The wild cards are Japan and China. You can’t service other countries from those, and you can’t service those from India.”
Thinking Around The Box
Strauss was skeptical that anyone has created the sort of “turnkey” approach that can keep costs low in a multinational travel management offering. He said the challenges on content, language and local travel knowledge — and the needs for customization — are just too great.
Swartz wasn’t as concerned about customization. “Obviously the smaller the number of countries, the easier it is,” he said. “Corporations are moving toward standardization already. The bigger challenge is the brand name. Especially at a big company, it’s still easier to sell ‘American Express’ than ‘W Travel’ to the CFO.”
Strauss didn’t rule out the potential success of a “box” designed for “the right size company, with the right disposition, at the right stage in the lifecycle of growth.”
SMEs that prefer the attention of a national player sometimes partner with those TMCs’ networked affiliates for foreign servicing. This is the kind of setup that Waghmar said sparked the idea for his approach. Why, he asked, should the lead agency give up business to TMCs in other countries?
Additional info: W Travel has more than 120 employees and claims more than 100 corporate clients. These are mainly from the private equity, venture capital, hedge fund and technology sectors. Waghmar founded the premium-class travel company, Spotnana, in 2004. In 2013, parent W Holdings acquired former Frosch affiliate Global Air Travel in Houston to become what Waghmar called a “full-fledged TMC.” W supports Concur Travel and “can implement” other booking tools. It uses Cornerstone Information Systems’ iQCX for the mid-office.