THE “CONSUMERISATION” OF corporate travel might have the linguistic purists among us up in arms, but language has as much right to evolve as the business we operate in. Part of that business evolution is the entrance into the sector of brands and businesses with a background in online leisure travel. Travel management company (TMC) Egencia falls under this definition. It is part of Expedia Inc, which owns the eponymous online travel agent, hotel specialists Hotels.com and Venere.com, Elong.com in China, discount specialist Hotwire.com and, until recently, reviews giant Tripadvisor. Even after spinning off the latter, Expedia Inc is the biggest online travel company in the world. Christophe Peymirat, recently promoted to Egencia’s senior vice- president for EMEA and Asia Pacific, joined the business when it started out as Expedia Corporate Travel in 2000. He was involved in its 2004 purchase of Paris-based TMC Egencia, whose name Expedia Inc adopted for its corporate arm in 2008.
All TMCs are big on technology – buying in, partnering or developing their own. Egencia appears to have the best of all worlds – as a dedicated business unit within Expedia Inc, and with its own development budget. However, it also has access to its parent company’s expertise and experience. “We can share the technology bricks, taking what is relevant for the corporate market and using it to Egencia clients’ advantage,” says Peymirat. As well as “leveraging the technology investment of the group as a whole”, Peymirat is also clear that the group’s “experience of leisure patterns” was informing the corporate side. “The usability of the interface is a constant focus for leisure, and we are taking things we’ve learnt from that to optimise the corporate side.”
NARROWER FOCUS Other online leisure travel agents have dedicated corporate interests, primarily focused on North America rather than having the global footprint of Egencia. Travelocity Business is an autonomous part of Travelocity,
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whose European leisure brand is Lastminute.com. Travelocity, in turn, is part of Sabre Holdings, owner of the Sabre global distribution system, and online booking system Get There. Travelocity Business president
Yannis Karmis says the company has annualised sales “well north of $1 billion”. He is also keen to point out that its growth had been organic, “unlike Egencia, which has grown through acquisition”. Karmis says Travelocity Business’s growth has come slowly, but was kick-started when it picked up the Lockheed Martin account, “one of the biggest in the US”, in 2006. He admits that “in the early days there was some scepticism, although some people were willing to have the conversation because of the credibility we had from being part of Sabre”.
It stuck to its guns with a defined strategy of going after “medium to large accounts which already had a structured travel programme in place”. Winning Lockheed Martin, a relationship that has recently been renewed, was key. “Lockheed is an important account, in terms of being a defence contractor with governments among its clients,” Karmis says. “Its demands on security, compliance and budget accountability are stringent. And we also helped out with its relocation business, VIP travel... a whole portfolio of services. It made the market pause and think.” Orbitz for Business is another TMC borne out of a leisure parent, in this case Orbitz Worldwide, whose flagship brand, Orbitz.com, is a big online travel agency in the US.