Price Assurance Firms Go Global, Add Features

By | July 16, 2015

Price assurance remains an active area of development for corporate travel. Madrid-based Trappit now is challenging Yapta on the global stage for airfares. It’s got a hotel product in the works, too. Hotel-only provider TripBam, meanwhile, rolled out some significant enhancements during the past few weeks.

The basic idea is to continually check already-purchased seats or rooms against newly published rates, and cancel/rebook if appropriate. There are several considerations.

TripBam’s latest developments focused on preferred property relationships, negotiated rates and commissionable rates. Its clustering concept enables program managers to highlight preferred properties when re-shopping a booked non-preferred. TripBam founder and president Steve Reynolds said one client recently increased usage of preferred properties by 25 percent.

Another new service helps TMCs and their clients maximize commissions. Using TripBam to replace less lucrative bookings has earned Balboa Travel “tens of thousands” in incremental revenue since the start of the year.

“Most negotiated rates are net of commission, but even in the large corporate market, we’ll find commissionable rates that beat net,” said Reynolds. “There’s an assumption that a 20 percent discount, and maybe I’m getting breakfast, is the best rate. But you can often find a rate better than your negotiated rate that’s also commissionable and comes with those amenities. Travel buyers may feel like we’re kicking the teeth in on their hotel programs, but they can show executives more cost savings and more revenue. Commission revenue to a travel manager is gold.”

The spending still is counted in preferred hotel relationships, he noted.

TripBam also recently released a “last search” option that scans for distressed inventory rates at the traveler’s booked hotel within the day before check-in. The company also enhanced its email templates to “improve traveler acceptance of lower rate offers.” And it created attachment messaging to prompt travelers to add a hotel booking after they’ve purchased air travel.

Balboa Travel has been “all in” with TripBam since January, said COO John Cruse. Clients need to opt in for the service, and he said it’s now applied to about three-quarters of the TMC’s hotel bookings. “The ROI has been demonstrated, 100 percent,” said Cruse. “Before, I didn’t understand that hotel rates change so often. So now we keep taking snapshots through the life of that PNR, which also opens a whole new world on reporting. Customers are surprised and happy.”

Balboa uses internal processes for airline price assurance.

Yapta formally launched its RoomIQ hotel price assurance service in February. Facilitating “the opportunity to move from a non-preferred hotel to a preferred hotel” is on the company’s development roadmap, said president and CEO James Filsinger.

Since launching its FareIQ airfare product in 2012, Yapta has saved clients more than $13 million. On average they save $260 on adjusted itineraries. Yapta is currently operating at U.S. points of sale only, but could expand internationally as early as next year, said Filsinger. One of Yapta’s investors is Amadeus. Filsinger said an imminent connection between the two companies’ technologies opens the door to a stronger position in Europe. Yapta already connects to Sabre and Travelport’s Apollo.

“It could end up that our hotel product goes international first,” Filsinger said.

TripBam recently expanded into the United Kingdom through a partnership with London-based TMC Business Travel Direct.

Manuel-Martinez

Trappit board member Manuel Martinez

Newcomer Trappit offers a Yapta-like service in “any currency,” its founders claimed. Its Airline Reservation Price Optimization system launched in September 2013. Spain’s IA Grupo7 is among the corporate travel agencies that use it. Trappit said several large corporations do, as well.

Trappit’s hotel tool is developed and tested, “but not commercialized yet,” according to Manuel Martinez, a member of the company’s board. He said execs are debating whether the service should be for consumers or businesses. TripBam and Yapta also faced such crossroads in their early days, and wound up going business-to-business. Other players addressing consumers, at least for hotel, include Germany-based DreamCheaper and TripAdvisor’s Tingo.

Like the other B2B services, Trappit takes into account cancellation penalties and booking fees before recommending a new price. The firm charges 25 percent of the savings. Trappit announced in December it had raised investment of more than 700,000 euro.

The company claimed it cuts airfare spending by up to 30 percent for nearly one-third of flights, and can reduce by 10 percent the total amount billed by a given travel agency.

“The savings shown by Trappit and proven in live customer relationships sound very interesting to the corporate world,” according to consultant Winfried Barczaitis, based near Cologne, Germany. “There are very rare opportunities where you can save another approximately 10 percent without any influence on quality of travel. The corporate customer has to agree with its TMC a reasonable transaction fee, as the transaction has to be touched again. Normally even a doubled offline fee should cover the additional cost for the TMC and still the savings potential should be positive for the corporate customer.”

Related to that, Yapta is working on automated re-ticketing for itineraries that meet the right criteria — thus reducing the number of changes that incur an agency fee.

Trappit’s Martinez is excited about the potential value in the firm’s business intelligence.

“After managing through our system thousands of fares to be able to provide cheaper offers, our system has developed great intel on the behavior,” Martinez said. “We can provide outstanding information to the corporations and travel managers, or to the travel agencies. We have a fantastic view of behaviors and offer guidance on how the air ticket portfolio in that corporation has been managed — the opportunities that have not been taken, and the reasons.”

Trappit has 27 employees and expects to generate about 1.5 million euro in revenue for 2015. Building from Western Europe, officials expect soon to offer services in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

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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.