Reaction: Responding to Scott Gillespie’s Op Ed on how today’s corporate travel market demands “long-sighted travel policies” prioritizing value and sustainability over traditional cost-cutting, readers generally agreed with the need for change. Microsoft’s Eric Bailey echoed the goal of reducing emissions and minimizing low-value trips but suggested different methods. He recommended carbon taxes and budget cuts as stronger deterrents. BCD Travel’s John Wenzelman acknowledged the business need for spending scrutiny but argued for traditional controls like pre-trip approval. Both had reservations about relying on higher prices to discourage low-value trips, saying cost alone was insufficient to determine value. Gillespie countered by emphasizing the effectiveness of higher prices forcing approvers to assess trip value carefully and highlighting travel’s high carbon footprint as a justification for targeted intervention. Jean Belanger of Cerebri AI agreed with Gillespie on the need for a paradigm shift and flagged technology as the solution. He proposed AI-powered models to optimize travel programs and accurately measure business trip ROI.

On “A Skeptic’s View Of Generative Artificial Intelligence” by Brandon Strauss, commenters agreed that the “generative AI” label is overused. They want an emphasis on practical value. They see the potential for improvement in data insights, booking experiences and other areas while acknowledging concerns over data privacy, legal matters and job displacement. Curtis Socha of Emburse expressed a more optimistic view of generative AI in corporate travel and its potential to create value in specific contexts. SAS travel manager Richard Clowes can’t wait for sorely needed innovation — instead of “noise” — to enhance travel agents’ work.

Southwest Airlines filed for a trademark on the term Southwest Business Traveltrack last summer. Is it a risk management solution? Some spooky AI thing? According to a late 2023 email from the Southwest press department, “We’ll have more to share on this in the first half of next year. Stay tuned!” Will do.

Word is that Delta Air Lines is looking into providing a new data feed to corporate travel programs on bookings that were changed due to disruption, perhaps including bookings initially made with the carrier directly. Apparently, similar to an initiative at United Airlines, the idea is to close gaps in travel and risk management programs. Delta did not “have anything to share” as of Jan. 16, according to a spokesperson. SVP for global sales Bob Somers told viewers in a video posted to LinkedIn on Jan. 10  that “investing in technology and reporting to create a more personalized experience for you and your travel program” was one of Delta Business’ five critical initiatives for 2024.

Something’s up at Internova, parent of Altour, Protravel, Travel Leaders Corporate and more than a dozen other brands. Sources said the company would rationalize the names and move forward with Altour as the overall brand. We understand there’s some new tech in the works, too. Asked whether an exec would sit for an interview, a press official on Jan. 12 suggested it “might be better in a few weeks, when we will have news to announce.”

Average corporate travel spending per trip and per night, according to Prime Numbers Technology data.

Hilton is offering SMEs 7 percent off the best available rate at participating hotels as part of its Hilton for Business program that generates points for both account owners and travelers. These direct bookings would avoid the standard 10 percent commission for travel agencies. “The actual discount rate relates to the hotel’s BAR, which is a specific rate type that varies depending on time of purchase, is unrestricted, non-qualified and excludes discount rates,” according to program terms. “Early departure fees, deposit and cancellation restrictions may apply and vary by hotel.” The program is not available to business clients with a Hilton sales agreement. When companies book rates negotiated locally with properties, they will not earn bonus points as part of Hilton for Business. “Within a calendar year, the maximum number of Hilton Honors Bonus Points is 1,500,000, which is equivalent to 3,000 eligible nights,” according to program materials. Hilton is still building some administrative features related to reporting and doling out points.

Bad news and good news for Brex and TravelPerk, respectively, this week: The former — an expense and payment software firm that partners with Spotnana for travel — told employees it reduced headcount by roughly 20 percent (282 people) because leaders “grew our org too quickly.” The latter added $104 million in capital from existing investors and SoftBank. TravelPerk said it would invest in its platform, introduce new “inventory capabilities,” use AI to expand automation and offer new business travel services. The company for 2023 reported a 70 percent year-over-year increase in revenue and a 90 percent gross profit improvement on annualized booking volumes that “approached $2 billion.” TravelPerk has more than 1,200 employees and CEO Avi Meir reiterated the travel management company’s focus on small and “mid-tier” clients in Europe and the United States. Comments by one investor referenced a recent uptick in internal automation for efficiencies, which TravelPerk has identified as what sets it apart from other TMCs.

On Tuesday, CWT said its myCWT web and mobile apps enabled conversations with generative AI-enabled assistants in 56 countries. When it runs into trouble, it “seamlessly” hands over to an agent, the company claimed. Powered by Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI, the service will soon offer live language translation and more personalization. We requested a demo. What should we look for?


Pithy Wisdom

Brian Sumers, editor of The Airline Observer

“We should not be surprised that American already is claiming victory, because prematurely announcing success is a core tenet of business.”

The Airline Observer editor Brian Sumers, in a Jan. 26 article about how he appreciates the “clear strategy American Airlines continued to articulate on this week’s earnings call but doesn’t know exactly what to make of it

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