Travelport’s quest to simplify bookings for returning business travelers

Take change

Travelport certainly solidifies many of the themes referenced in its rebranding. And it’s timing as the travel technology giant’s reincarnation may well coincide with the delayed recovery of the corporate travel industry.

Matthew Parsons

Travelport continues to upgrade corporate travel agency customers to the new Travel+ platform as a senior executive warns of a “swamp of complexity” that awaits business travelers as the industry’s recovery accelerates.

Existing customers Fox World Travel and BCD Travel affiliate Christopherson Business Travel, both based in the US, are the latest travel agents to switch to the new platform, which was unveiled last April. They can now take advantage of Travelport’s concerted effort to offer a comprehensive, single source of content, rather than pull in data from multiple places.

The Atlanta-based tech company has signed so-called New Distribution Capability distribution agreements with Air France-KLM, International Airlines Group and Lufthansa Group in recent weeks. It claims to be the first and only global distribution system to offer this type of content from all three major European airline groups.

It announced on Monday a multi-year agreement with online train and bus ticket provider Trainline, and has also integrated Hilton’s API into Travelport+. Application programming APIs or interfaces are digital tools that allow a platform to translate the “language” used by the business and contain inventory, schedules, pricing data, and more.

This comes at the right time, as the travel booking process for employees is about to get more complicated, according to Travelport’s global head of customer strategy and marketing.

“If you do this right, you should make that (travel booking) process simple. They can sift through that swamp of complexity,” said Kyle Moore.

Part of the problem is that in the coming years, airlines will rely on selling extras to maximize revenue. These sideline businesses have growth potential, executives said at a CarTrawler webinar Wednesday, where airline bosses revealed that business travel was picking up.

“Unbundling helps airlines generate more money (but) it makes it harder for consumers to see what’s best for them,” Moore said. “When you consider that all those travel products are getting more and more complex, I get seat choice or not, I have access to the lounge, which complicates the shopping, booking and service process.”

Now Christopherson Business Travel, which has 1,000 customers in the US, and Fox World Travel can more easily connect with airlines and other travel providers, through one agent desktop, one set of APIs, and one data-driven distribution channel, Travelport claims.

Retail revival

Content aggregation is largely made possible by New Distribution Capability, which is an important aspect for Travelport+, Moore said, so that airlines can put the product on the shelf. “They put the right tools there to find the proverbial needle in a haystack, which is really the right choice for the traveler.”

The concept of “shelves” is gaining momentum and the similarities with retail shopping are steadily growing as travel technology catches up with other forms of e-commerce. Saber has developed its “new airline window display” to help travel agents and corporate travel managers display content from different airlines side by side, while ATPCO has perfected the art of online shopping with its so-called next-generation window display.

Moore believes Hilton’s API is akin to a hotel version of New Distribution Capability.

“We’re introducing a new API to better support products where they go,” he said. “Connecting with Hilton allows us to sell products that may not even be on the shelf yet, but the traditional mechanisms of accessing the content would make that more difficult. It puts it within the reach of travelers and agents.”

As with European airlines, Moore said he believes Travelport is the only global distribution system that has made it happen. “I know we are the first,” he added.

Meanwhile, other new features of Travelport+ include itinerary improvements, including Trip Quote for Smartpoint users. That means customized quotes and assisted ticketing options. It also launched a new travel manager portal for Travelport+ that provides self-service for travelers to “perform quick, easy transactions for their trip on the go”.

With all the talk of shopping for travel, is Travelport blurring the line between leisure and corporate customers?

“When I talk to customers, whether they are recreational or business, that retail philosophy matters in both cases. People tend to see retail as something that takes place during leisure time. It has the same impact on business travel,” Moore says. “Maybe it’s even more important… you have the right tools to find that right product.”

turn a corner

We are all philosophical after going through two years of pandemic. But no more than Travelport it seems, and Moore believes the launch of Travelport+ and the gradual phasing out of the Apollo and Worldspan platforms means Travelport is a different company.

“Travelport today is not the Travelport of yesteryear,” he said. “It’s culturally different. We move with speed and agility. And the whole philosophy of the company reflects that.”

To date, the company has moved more than 80 percent of its customers to the revamped Travelport+ platform. To continue philosophizing: what comes after the ‘plus’ transformation is complete?

“To me, that ‘plus’ has a long lifeline because it’s indicative of what we’re always doing, continuing to evolve, continuing to deliver,” Moore said. “It will always be the place that delivers more, and it’s the platform name for the long haul.”

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