When travel agencies fail the leisure part of ‘leisure’ trips

Rather than leaving employees to their own devices when confusing business trips with long vacations, a travel agency should take over. The co-founder and CEO of the Norwegian startup Travelin.ai believes that most corporate travel agencies have taken the wrong approach to helping clients deal with the complexities of itinerant employees.

“A lot of companies talk about ‘entertainment’ but they can’t do it,” said Roy Golden of Travelin.ai, part of the Amadeus for Startups programme. “The leisure requirements of the business traveler are not being met. They want to bring their partners, friends and children, extend their stay before or after, and they want to mix the trips together.”

He argues that companies are having a “hard time” working on the hybrid business model, losing track of where everyone else is, with tax complications being the main headache. “They have to appoint lawyers and accountants and manually go in where they (the staff) were. Then they get scrutinized. It’s a mess,” he added.

However, it is handled by the likes of Trip.Biz, with its new mixed payments tool, as well as TripActions with its entertainment booking tool Lemonade. But is this enough?

So what is the fix?

Amadeus has always been keeping an eye on so-called leisure travel, and its Amadeus for Startups division helps entrepreneurs by giving them the right technologies to build their businesses. “With the rebirth of business travel, ‘leisure’ travel is gaining momentum once again,” said Paul de Villiers, senior vice president of global business travel accounts at Amadeus.

Travelin.ai describes it as “a unique, next-generation platform for corporate travel management that reflects the true way we live today.”

To help take some of the stress out of organizing business parties, the Travelin.ai platform has two notable features. One is a feature called, unsurprisingly, Workcation, which allows an employer to allocate a personal travel budget to each employee as a bonus or part of their compensation package. The budget can then be used by employees on the checkout page.

And when it comes to approvals for these flights, rather than a direct report that he signs – the tax officer does. This way, Golden said, all days spent in other locations are off, and employees won’t end up overstaying their welcome in other countries, leading to fines. “To reduce this risk to businesses, we are collaborating with one of the four largest accounting firms to conduct a risk analysis before booking business,” Golden said. “Based on the results of the risk analysis, we are implementing a reservation approval process.”

The founder also believes that platforms like Lemonade and Travelperk don’t do the trick when it comes to job offers.

“We look at how the market works, and then build the solution backwards,” he said. “Others build a solution, and they ask clients to work their way. We work in reverse. In the hybrid world, which we live in now, it’s the same person. We tell clients, you live the way you want to live your life, and it’s our responsibility to build the technology to accommodate that, not the opposite. “

However, TripActions’ Lemonade platform, which was launched in 2020 as a bonus to employees, had a monthly growth rate of 22 percent in the first quarter of this year.

“With the increasing focus on wellness in the wake of the major resignation and major cabinet reshuffle, personal travel as a feature is gaining increasing interest for companies looking for consumer-level solutions to differentiate themselves as potential employers,” said Nina Herold, President of Travel, Executive Vice President.

Since the pandemic, the travel agency has also seen a notable shift in business trips that contain weekends. Since 2019, 31 percent of business trips have included the weekend, the company said, but that share has now grown to 38 percent.

They also offer bonuses for a period of time, if employees can lower their business travel costs via the Better Price feature, as these bonuses can be exchanged for personal and business travel upgrades.

Travelin.ai’s Golden will be showcasing the upcoming Amadeus’s Travel Tech Night in Berlin on June 14, along with Tilla, a cargo crew travel platform, which will showcase its journey as a travel tech startup and share the challenges it has faced along the way. “We believe their story may inspire newcomers to the travel industry,” an Amadeus spokesperson said.

He will also present Raceline, which belongs to the Amadeus Partner Network. “The Danger Line is a clear example of the successful collaboration between Amadeus and the startup ecosystem,” the spokesperson added.

While Travelin.ai already has several clients, including PSA Consulting and Norwegian artificial intelligence software company Kindly, and funding from Innovation Norway and TRK Group, part of the founder’s presentation will likely include a presentation to other investors, including Amadeus Launchpad and Amadeus Ventures and Microsoft for Startups, who will also be speaking.

Sidenotes

The European Union is getting close to forcing companies to explain exactly what it means to work remotely.

This is partly due to the European Union’s transparent and predictable working conditions directive, which was released in 2019 but is fast approaching the August 2 “transfer deadline”. By this date, each member state will have to pass legislation to implement its terms.

Europe remains an uneven playing field, according to law firm Fisher Phillips.

Sweden has already established a new model for remote work, while Italy has adopted the directive by implementing preventive measures for employees with “occasional cooperation” and “continuous coordinated cooperation” contracts.

The law firm said Poland has addressed the issue of telecommuting by enforcing telecommuting rules in an agreement between the employer and employee at the start of the working relationship.

“EU member states are using (the directive) to reassess and reform their employment policies,” she wrote in a blog post. “Some of them have already put in place new workplace policies in line with the directive requirements, while others have exceeded minimum standards.”

One of the minimum standards relates to “predictability of terms of employment,” giving employees complete information regarding, among other aspects, where they work.

The European Union has already begun to discuss remote work – including its less attractive side. Ben Marks, CEO and founder of the #WorkAnywhere campaign, helped facilitate those roundtables and said he hoped member states would exceed minimum standards set by the Expected Working Conditions Directive.

“Real teleworking – meaning working remotely and not under duress or during a pandemic – has the potential to transform our society for the better,” he said. “It can help combat the cost-of-living crisis and may be key to retaining more women in the workplace. It is time to take advantage of the benefits of remote working for everyone while keeping workers healthy and well-being.”

Once more countries put in place custodial legal requirements to assign a workplace, remote or otherwise, there may be less discussion about who exactly needs to re-office, and more confidence in booking, something that the broader travel industry welcomes at the moment.

Campaign Marks will soon release the results of a major study on remote work environments, conducted with Selina and researchers from Boston University, possibly in time for the EU directive deadline.

Catch up on corporate travel for 10 seconds

Who and what Skift has covered last week: Accor, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Hopper, easyJet, Iberia, JetBlue, Journera, Oyo, Trip.com and Wizz Air.

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