Downtime is nice, but are we getting enough done on trips? In its quest to maximize business travel productivity, one Germany-based startup is pulling from themes in pre-trip approval, return on travel investment and the pandemic- and sustainability-driven emphasis on fewer but longer excursions.

Called Tagtu and founded in 2021 by business travelers from outside the industry, the bootstrapped company is in a soft launch with a flock of friendly firms. 

It’s an address book-based planning tool. Who do I know in that place I have to go? Plot them on a map. The interface allows users to “plan by meeting” or “plan by event.” It can plan based on schedule and location. It can suggest destinations. It interacts with customer relationship management tools, calendars and maps, and can prompt the user to enter data that produces an estimated trip value (useful for bosses). It can email relevant contacts to organize meetups.

Of course, people can do all that themselves, but Tagtu speeds up the process.

“Many travel technology tools currently on the market focus on quick booking and comparing prices and transportation options or expense management, rather than giving you the tools to invest in thoughtful planning,” according to the company’s blog. “As a result, many companies and individuals are missing out on the potential benefits of effective planning: having a more streamlined plan with more meetings and taking advantage of opportunities that arise with more purposeful travel.”

Tagtu’s Michael Friedrich and Maxim Kahlert

“It’s stressful to find enough meetings,” said Tagtu product and sales head Michael Friedrich. “You may have a meeting at 11 a.m. on one side of town and another on the other side at 12:30 p.m. You needed tools for that — maps, address books — and yet they offer no value. Managers will ask about trip purpose, but it’s forgotten.”

With sustainability in mind, corporate travel pros have been considering fewer/longer/higher-value trips since before the pandemic, but that accelerated things. Speaking on a webinar hosted last week by The BTN Group, CWT EVP and chief customer officer Nick Vournakis said CWT was seeing more trip batching, which requires more planning. “Fewer same-day trips, to the tune of about minus 10 percent today versus pre-pandemic, and a corresponding increase of 10 percent in multi-destination journeys,” said Vournakis. “So we see an increase in talk time of about 30 percent across the board.”

Tagtu goes so far as to suggest that travel policies should promote planning.

“This can be done by emphasizing the importance of researching and planning trips, rather than just booking them ASAP,” according to the firm. “This can help to ensure that employees are focused on achieving specific goals and objectives, rather than wasting time and resources on trying to make sense of the chaos involved in planning their next trip (or simply not planning at all). Employees should consider the purpose of the trip, whether it is necessary to achieve specific business goals and objectives, and if there are any alternatives to travel, such as virtual meetings. This not only helps to maximize the value of business travel but also helps to reduce the carbon footprint.”

The founders have yet to nail down a business model while they work on a minimum viable product. They’re keen to align pricing with ROI rather than transactions since an underlying company principle is sustainability.

During a briefing last week, Tagtu marketing and operations lead Maël Roth said the CFO from one pilot client was bothered by “static travel guidelines” such as hotel per diems: “He said, ‘If you’re closing a customer for millions, I don’t care. Invite those people to the five-star restaurant.’ So it seems like a mismatch, and we’re trying to find ways to build those models. Value has to be the common denominator.”

Tagtu’s founders acknowledged that it’s easier to put a number on value for a sales trip where a monetary amount of a potential deal is more precise.

“For another customer who does a lot of training travel, there’s no sales number attached, but they enjoyed having everything in one place,” said Maxim Kahlert, who runs branding and user experience design. “He looked at the trip summary, and it showed the different meetings of the trip, so actually, that’s a social value — meetings on a trip.”

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