Concur Technologies, the leading travel and expense management company in the world, is eager to forge partnerships with firms that provide ancillary amenities to corporate travelers, after successfully adding Gogo to its cadre of options.
Joe Jacobson, who works as director of marketing at Concur, says the firm’s relationship with Gogo has been a success. When a corporation enables Gogo in its Concur Travel Corporate Profile, it benefits from a discount of up to 33% compared to the same product in-flight, and from the ease and convenience of purchasing the Wi-Fi session during the flight booking process.
Concur is “absolutely” interested in adding providers of connectivity and other ancillary items to its Concur App Center, as it has done with Gogo and the Uber taxi service, Jacobson told RGN during a recent Society for Collegiate Travel & Expense Management conference in Colorado, where we were invited to give a presentation about how the travel buying experience is evolving. “Concur in general is looking for those types of partners to connect to our services through APIs, and provide choice and options for travelers as they’re booking, so that can be Wi-Fi Internet but that could be a lot of different other amenities as well,” he said.
Naturally, these conversations would need to include airline partners. But it’s easy to envisage a scenario whereby, for instance, an executive who’s company works with Concur is booked on a Lufthansa flight and secures a discounted rate to access a T-Mobile hotspot at the airport lounge or get FlyNet Wi-Fi in-flight. And of course, the next logical step would be to provide an opportunity to pre-purchase food and entertainment via the Concur App Center as well. One wonders if Hollywood would consider allowing passengers to stream early window movie content to their own devices if a broad arrangement was first agreed with corporate travel managers, and the transaction took place pre-flight.
We didn’t speak to Jacobson specifically about entertainment content. But in the context of Hollywood’s concerns over piracy, it’s interesting to note that Concur has found that the vast majority of collegiate travelers keep their noses clean when it comes to road trips. Faculty members “are not abusers” of money allotted to their travel. “By and large, people want to do the right thing.” Thinking out loud, could there be a way for Hollywood to offer something special to the sizable, largely honest, global collegiate crowd?
Looking more broadly at the travel distribution landscape, Concur – which works with about 150 different travel management companies across the globe – has found that the modern corporate traveler wants much more choice than in the past. “It’s similar to leisure travel, where they can go to different places to get different content; they want their corporate experience to be very similar,” says Jacobson. “But not all corporations…are open to that idea; giving their end-user choice. Yet with the mobile revolution, it [travel] is accessible in your hand so choice is happening. So Concur’s model is to make that choice available for everybody. And then depending on the program for a commercial client, for instance, they can decide what they do with that choice, and what is best for their specific program.”
A good example of how Concur enables choice can be seen in the firm’s new partnership with Air Canada, whereby it will develop and enable corporate travel booking functionality for aircanada.com. Jacobson says Concur “can do Direct Connect, where we go directly” to the host reservation systems of United Airlines, Avis Rental Car, and hotel partners, for instance. “We can go to the global distribution systems (GDSs) … And to be honest, they’re partners of ours as well. Our technology doesn’t work without GDS content [as well]. So we need GDSs, we need Direct Connect and then we need our partners, like Gogo and Uber that connect into our platform.”
But what if the inflight entertainment and connectivity crowd could collaborate with Concur on an even deeper level? During our presentation in Colorado, we highlighted the fact that advanced payment solutions from IFE system manufacturers are expected to expand the types of revenue streams offered to airlines (contactless payments, real-time CC). Thales suggests that by bundling all revenue-generating products into one package available on the IFE system, large carriers could generate up to $396 million per annum. Now consider enabling passengers to access their Concur TripIt accounts via connected IFE. TripIt is a very popular itinerary management tool (and the Pro version allows you to track your desired seat and get an alert when it opens up). Imagine being able to buy tickets to an event via connected IFE, and then access your TripIt account to immediately update your itinerary.
It seems as if the travel technology and IFEC worlds are edging ever closer to each other’s orbits. Who or what will give them the nudge they need to take the next step?