Today’s corporate travel and expense management market is all about consolidation and collaboration. This trend reached a new peak with news that K1 Investment Management is investing $125 million to combine Certify, Nexonia, ExpenseWatch and Tallie under one roof.
But you’d be mistaken if you thought that Certify would take a break from industry collaboration. This week the company revealed a new partnership with nuTravel, an online travel booking solution that integrates with travel management companies and large enterprises. Their pair-up sees nuTravel offering its services into Certify via the new Enterprise Travel offering. In many ways, it’s a compliment to Certify’s existing travel booking service for SMEs, but according to the companies, nuTravel’s addition means Certify can address a different customer: the large enterprise.
According to Carmine Carpanzano, cofounder, president and CEO of nuTravel, working with large corporates means juggling a lot of factors in the T&E process.
“Larger-scale companies have corporate discount programs in place, they have airline deals, hotel deals, rental car deals, which they all need incorporated into their system and into their travel programs,” he recently explained to PYMNTS. “For the most part, travel policy plays a big role in how travelers are treated through the booking path. Also, in larger corporations, in a lot of cases you have a pre-trip approval process, which also controls behavior.”
Guiding a traveling employee at a large enterprise means continued emphasis on corporate travel policy and existing discount programs and contracts in place already, he added.
“That's compared to an SME, who doesn’t really have any of that in place,” Carpanzano added.
Addressing this market also means understanding all of the service providers that come into play. While nuTravel is integrating its travel booking on the front-end, and while Certify offers business clients its expense management solution on the back-end, Carpanzano said the travel management company is particularly important for large corporates.
“The TMC is critical, in that they’re the ones servicing the customer once that trip is booked and the user is on the journey,” he said, adding that TMCs provide traveler support, compliance to corporate policy, reporting and other services.
According to Rich Miller, nuTravel EVP, GM Corporate Travel Solutions and Chief Strategy Officer, that means the end-user experience is critical – and that means ensuring these service providers like nuTravel, Certify and others are all interconnected and working seamlessly with each other.
“TMCs bring a lot of value to companies,” he said, “and we are making sure all information and travel data is made available to the TMC so they can use it and provide the value that they contractually agreed to those customers.”
According to Miller, when it comes to the larger enterprise, the travel management company owns the customer relationship, and other service providers are there to augment the customer experience.
Facilitating this communication and cooperation is the digitization of many of these processes. Both Miller and Carpanzano said larger enterprises indeed see greater use of digital and online travel booking solutions, automated expense reporting and electronic payments like commercial card programs and ghost cards, compared to SMEs.
“And now virtual payments are on the move,” Carpanzano added.
There are, however, areas that could see a need for improvement.
“But in the enterprise segment there are still companies using paper, Excel spreadsheets,” noted Miller. “I would say from a travel booking standpoint, most large corporates have some type of online booking technology in place for their travelers. The real question is that the traveler’s adoption level of that is.”
Further, he added, especially as the size of the company declines, the percentage of businesses that not only have a travel booking solution and expense management tool in place, but have those two services integrated with each other, also declines. That presents a significant opportunity for the T&E industry that has, as of late, been taking advantage of the need of integrated services that all communicate with each other.
As Carpanzano described this opportunity, “There's a lot of green pasture out there.”