BBT speaks to Richard Viner, UK country manager for online travel management platform TravelPerk, about the company’s entry into the British market and its plans for the future
Since competing in the Disrupt Awards at the Business Travel Show in 2016, TravelPerk has seemingly gone from strength to strength. Following the completion of a Series B funding round worth £15 million led by Berlin-based Target Global and London’s Felix Capital, the Barcelona-based start-up branched out with an office in London, which quickly grew after a further £33 million investment and the appointment of Travel Management Company: An agency which manages business travel for a company. veteran Richard Viner as UK country manager.
Viner, whose background includes stints at Egencia, Expedia Affiliate Network and ATPI among others, tells BBT he made the move to a more technology-focused company partially because of the buzz surrounding the potential of the platform.
“What we’re doing here in the UK is kind of like building a company,” Viner says. “I find it really fun talking to clients and prospective customers about our technology and what it can do for them. It feels like a privilege to be involved.”
TravelPerk’s momentum doesn’t seem to have slowed; the platform integrated Trainline for Business in May, giving customers the ability to book rail tickets alongside flights, accommodation and cars.
And in June, it partnered with Lufthansa Group to incorporate its airlines’ New Distribution Capability - a new system of technology standards to allow the distribution of airfares and ancillaries through third parties which is being developed by airline association IATA with... content through the group’s API.
While providing a range of content is key for TravelPerk, Viner believes its booking experience can also go a long way towards providing savings and higher adoption rates for clients.
It’s about reducing the anxiety of business travel
“Travellers need flexibility in the inventory available to them, but their companies want them to stay on policy. Because we’ve aggregated so much content, compliance tends to be very high – north of 90 per cent. And this is where the industry is moving. Research shows 64 per cent of millennials know their company’s travel policy but still book outside because they can find a better deal elsewhere.
“But travellers also expect bookings to be quick and easy, mainly because it’s what they’ve come to expect when they’re booking personal travel. What we’re trying to do is narrow the gap between enterprise and legacy solutions. Enterprise has great technology, but customers really want agility, so you have to be product-led with the speed to adapt to changes.”
When it came to signing a deal with Trainline, Viner says it was as much about being able to provide a wider range of content as it was to offer a streamlined shopping process.
But TravelPerk has been careful to communicate the fact that using its platform doesn’t mean sacrificing service; clients have access to the company’s team of agents who are on hand to deal with emergencies and itinerary changes. Viner is particularly proud of the chat function available through the mobile app.
“Once a traveller in London forgot his passport at home, so he used the chat function through the Wireless free internet access on the Underground to request a rebooking as he travelled back to his house. By the time he got home, our agents had already rearranged his flights and updated his itinerary. This is a great example of how technology powers service.”
Viner also shares a fun anecdote about travellers’ use of the comment box that appears during the booking process. “I think most people assume no one ever looks at the comments because they think those forms are only processed by computers. So we had one person request that the hotel have a monkey waiting in his room when we arrived. Our agents spotted it and found a vendor that sold toy monkeys, then arranged it with the property to have one of them sitting on his pillow when he checked in. Obviously, not every traveller will request something as specific as that, but it shows that our technology really is backed up by our team members.”
What are Viner’s plans for the future? “We’re focused on continuing to provide a deep inventory so our travellers can go anywhere in the world and get local content at the best possible price.
“We’ll also look at how we can use our technology to drive efficiency, both in the booking experience and in the travel management process.
“And, very importantly, we want to help clients improve traveller satisfaction. It’s about reducing the anxiety of business travel as much as we can.”