When travel agencies fail at the leisure part of ‘Bleisure’ travel

Rather than leaving the staff to their own devices by mixing work trips with long vacations, a travel agency should take charge. The co-founder and CEO of Norwegian startup Travelin.ai thinks most corporate travel agencies have taken the wrong approach to helping clients deal with the complexities of traveling employees.

“Many companies talk about ‘bleisure’ but fail to execute it,” said Roy Golden of Travelin.ai, which is part of the Amadeus for Startups program. “The leisure requirements of the business traveler are not met. They want to bring their partners, friends, children, extend their stay before or after, they want to mix up the flights.”

He argues that companies are having a “hard time” working on the hybrid model of work and are losing track of where everyone is, with tax complications being the main headache. “They have to hire lawyers, accountants and manually enter where (employees) have been. Then they are audited. It’s a mess,” he added.

However, it is being approached by companies like Trip.Biz, with its new Mixed Payments tool, as well as TripActions with its Lemonade leisure booking tool. But is it enough?

So what’s the fix?

Amadeus is eyeing so-called bleisure travel, and its Amadeus for Startups division helps entrepreneurs by providing them with the right technologies to build their businesses. “With the renaissance of business travel, bleisure travel is once again gaining traction,” said Paul de Villiers, senior vice president of global business travel accounts at Amadeus.

He describes Travelin.ai as a “unique state-of-the-art corporate travel management platform that reflects the true way we live today”.

To help take some of the stress out of organizing workplaces, the Travelin.ai platform has a few standout features. One is a feature called, unsurprisingly, Workcation, which allows an employer to assign 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 those travel approvals, instead of a direct report approving – the inspector does. Golden said in this way that all days spent in other locations are marked and employees will not end up staying longer in other countries, resulting in fines. “To minimize this risk to the business, we collaborated with one of the Big Four accounting firms to conduct a risk analysis before jobs are scheduled,” said Golden. “Based on the results of the risk analysis, we run the reservation approval process.”

The founder also thinks platforms like Lemonade, as well as Travelperk, are not hitting the mark when it comes to offering workcations.

“We look at how the market works and then build a solution backwards,” he said. “Others build a solution and ask customers to work their way. We work in reverse. In the hybrid world we’re living in now, it’s the same person. We say to customers: you live the way you want to live your life, it is our responsibility to build the technology to accommodate that, not the other way around.”

However, TripActions’ Lemonade platform, launched in 2020 as an employee benefit, saw an average monthly growth of 22% in the first quarter of this year.

“With an increased focus on wellness following the Great Layoff and the Great Reorganization, personal travel as a perk has increased interest from companies looking for consumer-grade solutions to differentiate themselves as potential employers,” said Nina Herold, head of travel, executive vice president.

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

It has also been offering rewards for some time if employees can reduce business travel costs through a “price to win” feature, with these rewards redeemable for personal travel and business travel upgrades.

Travelin.ai Golden will perform at the upcoming Amadeus Travel Tech Night in Berlin on June 14 alongside Tilla, a crew travel platform, which will showcase its journey as a travel tech startup and share the challenges found on the way. “We believe their story can inspire newcomers to the travel industry,” said an Amadeus spokesperson.

And Riskline, which belongs to the Amadeus Partner Network, will also be present. “Riskline is a clear example of a successful collaboration between Amadeus and the startup ecosystem,” added the spokesperson.

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, Amadeus Ventures and Microsoft for Startups, who will also speak.

side notes

The European Union is moving closer to forcing companies to explain exactly what remote work means.

This is partly due to the European Union’s Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive, which was launched in 2019 but is fast approaching the “transposition deadline” of 2 August. Until that date, each member state will have to pass legislation implementing its terms.

Europe is still an uneven playing field, according to the Fisher Phillips law firm.

Sweden has already established a new remote working model, while Italy has adopted the directive implementing protective measures for employees with “occasional collaboration” and “coordinated ongoing collaboration” contracts.

Poland has addressed the issue of remote work by requiring that remote work rules be laid down in an agreement between employer and employee at the beginning of the employment relationship, the law firm said.

“European Union member states are using the (directive) to reassess and reform their existing employment policies,” he wrote in a blog post. “Some of them have already established new workplace policies in line with the directive’s requirements, while others have gone beyond the minimum standards.”

One of the minimum standards concerns the “predictability of hiring deadlines”, giving employees complete information about their place of work, among other aspects.

The European Union has already been debating remote work – including its less attractive side. Ben Marks, CEO and founder of the #WorkAnywhere campaign, helped facilitate these roundtables and said he expected member states to go beyond the minimum standards set by the Predictable Working Conditions Directive.

“True remote work – which means working remotely without duress or during a pandemic – has the power to transform our society for the better,” he said. “It can help combat the cost-of-living crisis and could be the key to retaining more women in the workplace. It’s time to capture the benefits of remote work for everyone while protecting the health and well-being of workers.”

Once again, as countries set legal requirements to define where to work, whether remote or not, there could be less debate about who exactly needs to return to the office and more confidence in booking, something the wider travel industry would now welcome.

Marks’ campaign will soon release findings from a large study of remote work environments, conducted with Selina and researchers at Boston University, potentially in time for the EU directive’s deadline.

10-second refresh for corporate travel

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

in short

ATPI grows presence in Africa and Middle East

travel management company ATPI added four partners to its global network in Africa and Europe. The agency’s new partners are located in Gabon, Rwanda, Liberia and Israel, bringing its worldwide total to 76 countries and 100 offices. In Liberia, JOS Travel and Tours will support mining and resource related travel as well as corporate travel. ATPI has also replaced its partners in Japan and Portugal with Tokyo-based Tobu Top Tours and Marine and energy specialist Wide Travel.

Amadeus Exec takes on CWT’s Traveler Experience role

The corporate travel agency has CWT named Mike Douglass to the newly created role of TX Customer Service and Excellence Leader (traveler experience). He comes from Amadeus, where he was most recently senior vice president of airlines, with previous roles at Travelport, Saber and American Airlines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.