BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
Artificial intelligence-powered travel concierge Mezi has
pulled out of its travel management company relationships, cutting ties to the corporate travel space after being acquired by
American Express in January. Mezi,
which began as a generalized shopping assistant in 2015, pivoted to travel
about 18 months in and courted corporate travel agencies aggressively in 2017 as an AI-enhanced, chat-based travel booking and communication platform that offered aggregated global distribution system and non-GDS content, as well as dining recommendations tailored to individual preferences and corporate policy. Last July, the company announced three TMC contracts: Adelman, Casto and WTMC, formerly W
Mezi co-founder and CEO Swapnil Shinde told BTN in January that
the company would continue to support TMC partners and operate as an
independent company with its own leadership even as it moved under the American
Express umbrella. "When it comes to existing TMC clients, we will continue,"
he said, noting, however, that the company would not take on any additional
agency partners as Mezi concentrated on scaling AskAmex
for the card company.
Six months later, those TMC partnerships are out.
On Friday, an American Express spokesperson attributed the following statement to Shinde: "We
are no longer working with these travel management companies. We’ve decided to
prioritize our work on integrating our technology into American Express
products and services."
WTMC CEO Sarosh Waghmar told BTN American Express had
asked Mezi to wind down its agency relationships over the next two weeks. Asked
how the loss would affect WTMC, Waghmar shrugged it off. "They were building a lot of things with us sharing with them how
to do it," he said, downplaying the AI enhancements and focusing on back-end
content aggregation. "For us, the UI/UX at the front end is the easiest
piece. The focus we have right now is on the pipes [and] plumbing. Using the
GDS [and] NDC as pipes and aggregating all of that and displaying that to the
right source. Fortunately, it won't impact us at all."
Casto, which launched the Marco travel assistant on the Mezi platform in
September, saw the writing on the wall soon after Mezi was acquired. CEO Marc
Casto said the two companies parted ways a couple of months ago and Casto retooled
Marco accordingly with Sabre. The new version launched last week.
Travel's website no longer identifies Mezi as a technology provider, and the
description of the tool no longer specifies travel booking capabilities. "The
changes in service scope were done in conjunction with client feedback,"
said Casto. "In large measure, the interest was for simple rebooking and
information requests, less on itinerary creation." Casto told BTN in
September that among launch clients then on the Mezi platform, only about 10
percent of bookings were initiated through the tool.
He added, however, that some clients had also expressed concern
about requiring travelers to download "yet another app," which, he
said, motivated Marco's pivot to webchat and Facebook Messenger.
About Mezi's defection from the corporate market to a
consumer-side only strategy, Casto said, "I continue to have very high
regard for everyone at the company. AskAmex is an excellent service for Amex
card holders and a very smart addition to their product offering."
BTN was unable to reach Adelman for
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