Avi Meir, CEO TravelPerk
As TravelPerk announces its latest acquisition - its largest to date - Bev Fearis gets the lowdown from CEO and co-founder Avi Meir
How do you plan to integrate Click Travel into your business?
Initially, Click Travel and TravelPerk will continue to run as two independent platforms before an eventual full integration when both platforms will fall under the TravelPerk name.
We plan to integrate the entire 150-strong talented Click Travel team into the TravelPerk group but will do this gradually while the two platforms run independently for the time being. We’re committed to ensuring there will be no redundancies.
Click Travel’s offices in Birmingham will become a new UK hub for us, in addition to our London office.
We are not in any hurry and expect the integration process to be slow and gradual.
How are you communicating with Click Travel’s clients? What would you say to any who might have concerns about their TMC changing hands?
Click Travel has over 2,000 SMB clients and after the acquisition this will bring TravelPerk’s total client base to just over 5,000. We are in communication with these customers to ensure as smooth a transition as possible but as mentioned we plan to do this gradually to avoid any disruption.
“Whilst many other providers have been in hibernation over the past year, we’ve been aggressive”
What’s the next step in your growth strategy?
We aim to continue being aggressive in our growth strategy and we are open to more acquisitions if they make strategic sense and are aligned with our visions for a future-focused, tech-driven approach to travel management.
TravelPerk is a global travel management platform but our core markets are the US and Europe and we expect both markets to be our primary growth areas this year.
How have you managed to get through the pandemic with no lay-offs?
We’re the only player in the travel industry that continued scaling and growing since the beginning of the pandemic. Whilst many other providers have been in hibernation over the past year, we’ve been aggressive, continuing to update our product and growing our customer base and we think that gives us a great foundation for growth in 2021 and beyond.
Getting through the crisis without making any layoffs was important to us because we had spent years building an amazing team and we knew that when travel picked up again we’d need them more than ever.
What makes you so confident that business travel will come back?
Overall, we have no doubt that business travel will recover fully and become a growth industry again in 2022. Covid-19 has triggered some permanent changes in how we work, but the meetings that matter will always happen in person. There is just no way to replicate via video the trust, relationships and connection that you can build by meeting in real life.
I know from personal experience that it only takes one trip, and one in-person meeting with your team, to realise just how much we’ve all been missing that connection over the last year.
Where are you seeing the green shoots?
Business travel is rebounding as vaccination roll-outs progress and restrictions ease. Even though there are still hurdles to overcome, we are seeing plenty of green shoots in our key markets across the US and Europe.
Our own customer data shows that the recovery is happening fastest in Spain and the US. Booking levels in those markets are nearly at 40% of pre-pandemic booking levels. We are also seeing increased bookings in Germany and the UK but those markets are slightly further behind; around 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“Businesses worldwide are giving employees remote working options. This might be bad news for the daily commute, but it will likely result in more business travel, not less”
There are also clear trends in terms of the industries that are starting to travel again. Apparel and Telecoms are leading the way; in fact in recent months bookings from Apparel customers have been 90% of pre-pandemic levels and Telecoms nearly 80% of pre-Covid booking levels. Food and Beverage and Machinery are also among the fastest recovering sectors, all between 45-60% of pre-Covid booking levels.
How will business travel be different post pandemic?
The way in which we travel has changed in a number of ways as a result of the past year, and there are a few trends I predict will characterize the future of the travel industry:
Flexibility will be key. We’ve noticed on our platform that travellers are booking closer to their departure date: before the pandemic, trip searches were usually conducted between 7 and 30 days prior to the selected departure date. What we’re seeing on our platform is that searches for trips less than six days away are now equal to those searches. Flexibility is therefore one of the most in-demand perks in business travel (and leisure travel too). Travellers will rely on flexible fares to give them the peace of mind that they won’t lose money if they need to change or cancel a trip on short notice.
Sustainability will have a serious seat at the table. The virus woke a sort of “collective consciousness” about sustainability in us all. People realised that the next big crisis is likely to come from climate change. Businesses worldwide are already looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and general environmental impact, while consumers find themselves in a moment where they want to make conscientious decisions to reduce carbon emission.
“Even though there are still hurdles to overcome, we are seeing plenty of green shoots in our key markets across the US and Europe”
We expect to see significant interest in our carbon offsetting product, GreenPerk, as a result but we also expect to see changes in how people are choosing to travel. For instance, rail is undoubtedly the more environmentally-friendly travel option. In fact, taking a train over a domestic flight can reduce an individual’s carbon emissions by about 84%. We have been building out our rail inventory for a number of years now and we expect train travel to be an increasingly popular business travel option for customers this year and next.
New types of business trips will emerge to bring people together. Businesses worldwide are giving employees remote working options. This might be bad news for the daily commute, but it will likely result in more business travel, not less. Whether they are going fully remote and “working from anywhere”, or operating on a hybrid model, distributed teams will need (and want) to come together. We believe there will be a new type of business trip – one where team members will travel from different working hubs to get together for teambuilding and brainstorming sessions, for meetings with clients and colleagues, and even for “bleisure” (business and leisure) trips.
What are you doing now to prepare for any changes in the way people meet/travel for business?
Since March last year, our strategy has been not to sit back but to be aggressive and invest massively in our product offering and in our global reach, so that we are in the best position possible to capitalise when travel makes its full recovery.
We’ve recognised that traveller priorities have completely changed because of the pandemic and so we’ve been focused on building innovative solutions for travel in a Covid and post-Covid world, such as FlexiPerk, GreenPerk, and TravelSafe API. We also recently announced a partnership with Skyscanner that will see the online travel agency take travel restriction information directly from TravelPerk’s TravelSafe API to use in its interactive destination map.
For more on TravelPerk’s acquisition of Click Travel, see our news story.