[UPDATE, Aug. 5, 2017: Concur pushed back to Sept. 16 its simplification of the TripLink user permission process.]
[CORRECTION, July 31, 2017: The original version of this article mischaracterized improvements in the TripLink on-boarding process, suggesting travelers do not need to agree to connect their loyalty programs with their Concur profiles. They do still need to permit that integration. This corrected version also adds the fact that TripLink data flows into Concur Travel as well as Concur Expense.]
Press releases about suppliers participating in the direct-connect version of Concur’s TripLink continue apace even as the activation of such connections remains sporadic. Most recently, Concur made TripLink available to users of United Airlines’ mobile app. It’s also smoothing out the client on-boarding process. Meanwhile, Traxo added Booking.com and United to its own version of supplier-direct data capture, which already connected with Lufthansa.
The United Android and iOS mobile apps included Concur’s TripLink in updates this month. United’s website first accommodated TripLink in January. According to draft release notes Concur published this week, TripLink is available to United’s mobile app users booking in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico.
After they connect their loyalty programs, TripLink allows users to directly book their companies’ negotiated supplier rates. Data flows into their Concur expense accounts and Concur Travel.
United offers email and phone support for connection issues.
TripLink’s early days featured a more cumbersome enrollment process. A new interface that Concur calls My Travel Network appears to help. “My Travel Network is a TripLink service that automatically connects the Concur user account to their participating travel supplier accounts using the entered reward numbers,” according to the notes. Concur will phase in additional refinements to the interface as early as this month.
Concur EVP of supplier and TMC services Mike Koetting demonstrated the TripLink booking process during a June briefing.
Users start by choosing their travel type — business or leisure. For business, both the website and mobile app allow clients to restrict basic economy fares. Unlike other consumers using the app or website, TripLink-enrolled corporate users can book for just one traveler. Search results return negotiated rates along with published rates. Card info is pulled from Concur profiles. If there is a mandatory company form of payment, the user is not allowed to enter an alternative. Personal cards can be charged for add-ons.
The process is much the same for Traxo, which last week announced active connectivity with United, including the mobile app. Traxo founder and CEO Andres Fabris said the firm already had “dozens” of corporate users for its Lufthansa connectivity. That does not leverage the loyalty program but rather hooks up through the corporate identifiers in the airline’s Partner Plus Benefits program. Traxo used yet a third method to connect to Booking.com, via the online hotel seller’s API.
These various means all offer the “same data output,” said Fabris. “We receive the data, normalize and validate it. Over time it will be as easy as a point-and-click menu where the travel manager chooses this or that connectivity.”
Concur last week said WestJet joined British Airways and Iberia as recently signed TripLink supporters. Like others including Air Canada, American Airlines, Etihad, Hertz, HRS and Lufthansa, those providers are not yet live. Accor soon will launch on both its mobile app and website, according to a Concur official. Along with United, active participants are Airbnb, Avis, HotelTonight, IHG, Marriott, Omni, Starwood, Trainline Europe and Voyages SNCF. All but Airbnb, Marriott and Starwood have enabled TripLink in their mobile apps, the official said.
“When it comes to on-boarding a new supplier, the overwhelming majority of that investment is incurred by the supplier,” Koetting said in June. “Hotels tend to be able to adopt it more quickly. Airline legacy systems tend to be more complex. There are really three things they need to do — accommodate a connection to the Concur profile, offer the corporate discount in their booking flow and automatically push back to Concur that reservation as well as any changes.”
During a June interview about his airline’s NDC initiative, American Airlines VP of sales and distribution strategy Cory Garner said AA also was “actively working” on TripLink and that there would be “more to announce.”
According to a Marriott official, “we’re seeing use of Concur’s TripLink grow as more customers from around the world adopt it. This solution dovetails with Marriott’s strategy to offer business travelers the ability to book rooms on the channels they prefer most, including our direct channels.” Beyond the United States, TripLink also is available on Marriott’s France, Germany and United Kingdom sites.
HRS is “actively working on TripLink integration and anticipates completion in the near future,” according to HRS VP of partnerships Jason Long.
Yet, support for the supplier-direct aspect of TripLink in the travel management company community remains muted, even among Concur’s top partners.
BCD Travel CEO John Snyder this month said TripLink “hasn’t gotten quite as much uptick as [Concur] maybe would have liked.” Christopherson Business Travel president Mike Cameron this week said, “We have not seen much adoption of the direct links. Customers haven’t had a strong appetite for that.”
A TripLink corporate user since 2015, Sopra Steria of the United Kingdom this week indicated that TripLink is “running fine,” though the program has not expanded. “The focus has switched a bit, but we’re looking to come back around to re-focusing on TripLink again soon,” according to Sopra Steria chief procurement officer and travel and expenses director Andy Hepworth.
Concur in September will further streamline the enrollment process by on-boarding users by default. “TripLink will be turned on automatically for all Concur TripLink customers’ users,” according to a spokesperson. “TripLink customers’ users who didn’t have permission to use TripLink supplier integrations and TripIt Pro prior to this release will receive the permission as part of the release. Those users will be notified when they sign in to Concur to activate TripIt Pro to organize all their travel plans in one place, and enroll in My Travel Network.”
Koetting said more than 9,000 companies were using TripLink, but Concur again declined to break out the share of those that are using the “supplier-direct” version. The legacy email parsing service initially popularized by TripIt but now commonplace across intermediaries also is part of TripLink.
Fabris said email parsing also is a perfectly legitimate way to go. His company can work with suppliers to blind copy Traxo in their emails to the traveler, removing the risk that the traveler forgets to forward his or her itinerary.
“I think the winning solution over time will be a combination,” said Fabris. “The API may only be 20 percent of the connections but 80 percent of the volume, but you cannot use that approach for the long tail. So we would use email parsing, inbox scanning, etc. It all runs through the same normalization infrastructure.”