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Producing its own version of Shark Tank, The BTN
Group gathered 12 technology companies to pitch their corporate travel and
corporate travel management innovations at its recent 2016 Innovate conference.
The innovators competed for the 2016 Innovator Award as bestowed by The BTN
Group’s panel of judges and for the People’s Choice Award as voted by the conference’s
160 buyer attendees. Here's what went down.
Eric Bailey: Microsoft
travel & venue group lead
Norm Rose: Travel
Tech Consulting president & Phocuswright senior tech analyst
Cathy Sharpe: ITW
director of strategic sourcing & global T&E management services
van Velzen: CEO of Roadmap, which won The BTN Group's 2015
Avis Now High Points:
The car rental industry’s first real-time mobile app represents a big shift to
allowing the traveler to control the process. Travelers can choose the vehicle,
and the display includes make, model, color and mileage. The traveler also can
flash the vehicle lights to find the car in the lot. Receipt data displays upon
return of the car, including the debit or—a real first—credit for fuel. In-app
Avis Now Low Points:
Driven by capacity, so vehicle choices may turn out to be limited. Questions
around returning damaged vehicles.
Avis Now: app for
Avis Preferred members to change vehicles, manage reservations, view contracts
& unlock cars
meetings app for booking local hotel meeting spaces with business amenities
& food and beverage
black car network
technology app to expedite check-in through billing process
meetings card payment integration
closet that cleans, inventories, stores, packs & ships business trip
clothes & other items
disruption rebooking app
& booking tool for small meetings
booking flow with integrated payment solution
rebooking app that works among a chosen cluster of hotels
for Business: Automatic auditing of business versus leisure
Bizly High Points:
Ingenuity in filling unused meeting spaces with last-minute corporate demand.
Incorporating clients’ onsite conference space into the existing platform
sweetened the deal.
Bizly Low Points:
Need more integration with property management systems and travel management
companies. Despite the curated nature of Bizly’s member hotels, there are
potential service issues, particularly around food and beverage. Judges were
wary of logistical issues should a clients’ onsite rooms get double-booked.
Points: Users can reserve cars as close as one hour in advance. Efficient
use of fleet for the black car industry. Value to the traveler in savings.
Blacklane Low Points:
Are the savings Blacklane claimed over competitors based on apples to apples
comparisons of products? Gaps in expense integrations. The bigger question is
whether the future of car service would include scheduled rides at all.
Conichi High Points:
Guests are recognized instantly when they arrive at the property, which
simplifies and personalizes check-in. Location-based personalization. It
integrates with existing hotel property management system technology. Enables
mobile payments, automated check-in, mobile check-out and smartphone door
Conichi Low Points:
There’s a concern about time to market, considering each property has to be
equipped with beacons. There may be resistance from chains that have their own
solutions. Hotel’s ROI may be difficult to measure based on improved guest
services. Some human training is required.
Cvent High Points:
Virtual cards and Concur Expense integration streamline the method of payment,
the processes and the reconciliation, considering that meetings payment can be
opaque. The ability to reduce purchase orders is a clear cost efficiency.
Cvent Low Points:
Currently integrates only with Citibank; more card providers would add
strength. Judges also questioned the calculation purchase order process costs
hit $200 per order.
Dufl High Points:
A new category that no one in the industry is doing and good market penetration
so far. Acknowledging the “niche” market, judges praised the concept for road
Dufl Low Point:
The majority of travelers won’t use this service.
Freebird High Points:
Predictive analysis of multitudes of flight data allows users to get a jump on
alternate plans before disruption information is shared widely. Rebooked
tickets are “free.” Especially applicable for travelers traversing
high-disruption markets where systemic issues arise like Chicago.
Freebird Low Points:
Using the metaphor “sick people are the only ones who want to buy insurance,”
judges saw less applicability outside high-disruption markets. Judges weren’t
convinced that corporations would broadly invest in the per-segment fees to
offset the inconvenience of potential travel disruptions.
Groupize High Points:
Effectively simplifies sourcing and workflows for small meetings. Includes
contract-approval processes. Whether a planner books with or without an RFP,
the approvals process remains active, making the tool easier to adopt and
offering more potential for “bringing real value back to the organization.”
Integration with Concur.
Groupize Low Point:
Needs integration with online booking tools other than Concur.
HRS High Points:
Collection of data on hotel line items and facilitation of virtual payment.
It’s an effort to close the loop on payment and data. Potential for better
value-added tax reclamation.
HRS Low Point:
The need to pay for room ancillaries with an alternate card could cause
Lyft High Points:
The admin portal works for both travel managers and travel arrangers. The event
portal enables multiple bookings for events.
Lyft Low Point:
Requirement for data signoffs could be a roadblock, making it harder to share
Points: The traveler chooses suitable hotels. TripRebel optimizes the cost
by reshopping the selections. Final booking details sent two days before the
trip. Consumer feel and quality of the app.
TripRebel Low Points:
A consumer app that is transitioning into the corporate space. Will receipt
data “and everything else” be brought back to the end user?
Uber for Business High
Points: Flags rides that are likely to be leisure rides but are paid using
passengers’ corporate profiles. “Smart” features that would learn habits
quickly and course correct for individuals. Ninety percent accuracy rate.
Uber for Business Low
Points: A tool with a 10 percent failure rate may not be valuable. Is the
tool over-engineered with machine learning when an intelligent rules engine
might suffice? Considering it examines only 6 percent to 8 percent of
transactions, the significance is in question, as well.
And the Winner Is ...
2016 People's Choice: Freebird
Travel buyers at the Innovate conference voted for their own
winner: Freebird, a carrier-agnostic mobile flight rebooking app that automatically
kicks in during a flight disruption to search multiple data sources to
determine the best alternatives to the original flight. The app returns results
to the mobile device, along with click-to-book functionality. Rebookings are
free, though users pay a minimal per-segment fee when registering the flight.
Because Freebird provides users a new ticket, the original ticket remains
untouched so the corporation can reclaim the value through usual channels.
Honorable Mentions: Avis Now, Dufl & Groupize
2016 Business Travel
Roadmap clinched in 2015, and this year, Conichi, another
travel experience technology, has beat out travel management players.
Conichi's technology integrates with hotel property
management systems, point-of-sale systems and loyalty programs and provides
hotels with beacon technology to recognize travelers' mobile devices. Once the
traveler is locked in, Conichi displays customer details and preferences to
hotel staff to facilitate service and extend special offers and messaging to
the traveler. For the traveler, the technology facilitates pre-arrival
communication about personal preferences. Onsite, it eliminates standard travel
processes with mobile check-in, keyless entry and mobile check-out. It also
enables virtual card payment at hotels, which has been a pain point for travel
managers. Conichi claims the app has 23 million users.
Founder and CEO Maximilian Waldmann said of the award: "We
are a company based in Berlin doing a lot of work in Europe and China right
now. We had no footprint in the U.S. Such a recognition, and being here
speaking to people and understanding the issues here as we roll out in the U.S.
is so important. It has huge significance."
Waldmann pointed out Conichi's ability to deploy to hotels
within a corporation's managed hotel program. The German company has an
established partnership with hotel distribution provider HRS, which currently
flags the "smart hotels" within its portfolio and prioritizes them in
Considering Conichi has fewer traditional travel management
features, it's interesting that the judges locked on the company's traveler
experience innovation. Waldmann explained: "Companies are moving away from
solely looking at pricing and regulations toward enhancing the entire
experience: making it better to travel, making it easier, making it seamless.
Winning this award proves that point."
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