What does it take to coordinate travel for over 6,000 companies worldwide? We talk to TravelPerk’s COO, Jean-Christophe Taunay-Bucalo, to find out.
TravelPerk is a SaaS travel management platform founded in 2015. It offers an all-in-one platform to book corporate flights, hotels, trains and cars
What is TravelPerk?
TravelPerk is a business travel platform born from the idea of simplifying business travel. We took the best from leisure travel (user experience, price, availability, inventory) and coupled it with what a company needs (control, reporting and a one-stop shop). Once we built that base, we started to layer different products and services that made sense for the traveller. We launched FlexiPerk, which makes every trip flexible, and GreenPerk, which was built around sustainability.
What are TravelPerk’s USPs?
Some travel management companies (TMCs) offer a disjointed experience, because different entities handle, for example, the supply or the reporting. We do everything – develop our own platform, negotiate with suppliers, and provide customer support. Having a one-stop shop delivers a much better experience. Our second USP is flexibility. We are the only TMC where you can cancel or modify your trip post-booking, from hotels to flights, and get 80 per cent back. Typically about 20 per cent of a trip will have some modification, so it’s a core part of the customer experience.
Have you got any memorable examples of helping clients?
When you book on TravelPerk you can make special requests. One customer jokingly said: “I want to have a monkey in my room”. Obviously, we weren’t going to arrange a live monkey, but we did manage to have a plush one put in their hotel! On a more serious note, there have been times, such as the Ukraine situation, where we have had to move people out of countries quickly. In these circumstances you just do what you have to do. That’s when you see the quality of provider that you have, and when you want competent support.
What are three qualities people should look for in a TMC?
First is how does the TMC handle the post booking with a mix of tech and customer support. Sometimes you need to talk to a human because it’s a complex situation, other times you want to change your hotel directly on the interface as it’s more efficient. Another is price benchmarking. We always tell any prospective customer: take your ten most common routes and hotels, and compare. Your total cost with a TMC is less how much they charge you and more the cost of their inventory. And thirdly, whether you want every single trip to be approved or you want people to have more flexibility, make sure the TMC can do that seamlessly. You don’t want the platform to dictate your policy.
Has there been an increase in the need for TMCs in the last five to ten years?
When big events happen or something goes wrong, companies see the benefit of TMCs. The landscape has also changed. Before, you could either book directly and get the cheapest fare, or go to a legacy travel agency for support at a high cost. The modern TMC gives you the best of both worlds. Plus, paradoxically, when the economy gets tougher, people want a cost control solution.
How would you like things to evolve at TravelPerk?
Post-booking is where we’ve seen the most friction, when people want to change or cancel plans, so we’ve invested in AI to see how we could automate this part. If your train to Manchester is cancelled, but we can offer an option for a flight or for renting a car – that’s a completely different experience.
What are your sustainability goals?
GreenPerk is our flagship product, reporting on carbon footprints, and we have seen a significant increase in adoption – more than 42 per cent in 2023. But what’s even more important is that we make trains available and easy to book. Most TMC tools don’t allow you to book trains because it’s incredibly hard on the technical side.
What are your three top tips for unmanaged travel?
- Set up your policy to encourage people to book more than two weeks in advance. Booking two weeks ahead vs one week is on average 25 per cent cheaper.
- Combine your trips. If you have to visit customer X and Y, optimise the trip by doing them together and reduce the overall travel.
- Write a travel policy, even if it’s a very basic one like “hotels in the UK should be less than £200 a night”. You can’t expect people to follow an unwritten rule.
What are three things you would never travel without?
The first is workout clothes. The secret to avoiding jet lag is working out, it’s literally a chemical reaction in your body. Second, I always have the equivalent of €50 in the local currency. There’s been plenty of times when credit card machines don’t work and having that cash can save you. Lastly, I am obsessed with sleep, because it’s so important to emotional wellbeing, so I always bring a mini white noise machine because you don’t know how loud the hotel is going to be. People make fun of me but I don’t care, I’m sleeping!