As travel giants circle, understanding the economics in tours and activities is vital

In the past 24 months, the tours and activities sector has moved from, to borrow a Cinderella analogy, the cinders to the palace, where its untapped potential has moved into the sights of major travel retailers and investors. These retailers and investors, as we know, included Booking Holdings, Tripadvisor and SoftBank via their investments in Klook and GetYourGuide. These moves have led to lots of opportunities for operators and consumers alike, but, as always, change does not come without its casualties. Some operators are to dealing with distributors and they understand that such partners can be both partner and competitor.

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Hospitality Management

Why Working in Hotel Management is a Nightmare!

Article | June 29, 2023

If a kid comes to me nowadays and tells me about his passion for working in the hotel industry, he goes back home with a dream to become a pilot. I am not saying that the hotel industry is the worst kind of industry currently existing in today’s environment, but I am also not denying that. Now, no offence to the hoteliers. You guys rock! It is no joke to work on a New Year Eve and see other people celebrating it while you guys make it happen. You have my respect! But I am probably not that tough. It took me a whole trial and error approach to declare this industry a nightmare for me. But I have so many of my friends still working in hotels and loving every second of their life. (At least that’s what they tell me.) So why were our experiences so different? Why do I know that so many people are not really made for this industry? And what does it take to be a hotelier? I will try to answer these questions through my experience and observations. Why Hotel Management? It is that one question that is the most common and important one. Before taking any big decision, one should be asking a similar question. But what was my why? Allow me to rewind my journey. I was in my 12th with commerce stream, and I was going through that self-enquiry phase. What after this? There was no 13th, nor did I enjoy accountancy too much to do it until I die. So I used to surf the internet and explore different career options almost every day. That was one of my significant hobbies during that time. I used to evaluate my choices, and very soon I understood that I had limited options in the commerce field. So it was arts then? But what was the median salary in that sector? After a lot of research, I realised the median salary in the arts sector was ‘disappointing’. But still, if not that, then what? What was I going to do with my life? It was then that I saw the picture of a cruise ship and remembered 'Titanic'. It was then that I imagined the luxury of a 5-star hotel. It was that moment where I was about to make one of the stupidest decisions of my life. I had never stepped into a kitchen nor showed the slightest interest in making any dish. I never really fancied cleaning glasses, nor did I like managing people under me. I also didn’t know absolutely anything about what was this industry all about. But I dared to share it with my sister, and she was like, wow! It sounds so different! I told this to my friends, and they were like, wow! We always knew you would be doing something different! I told this to my father, and he told me students have to clean toilets during the internship, and I shouted, ‘But that’s not a big deal! Anyone can do that!’ Dad said, ‘Do whatever you want to do then, my son.’ Well, so what did I want apart from freedom in my life at that point? Maybe maturity? Oh! Screw that! So I gave the entrance exam and got a decent rank. I desired to stand in the lobby of a 5-star-hotel and meet salacious women. I was pretty sure that many women would choose that industry apart from me. That was enough motivation! So yes, my reasons to choose the hotel industry was very logical and thoughtful, suffice to say. What Happens in a Hotel? The hotel industry is one of the most glamorous industries out there. Everything is so clean, eloquent, expensive, and pretty. People come to a 5-star hotel, are warmly welcomed, served drinks; they are provided comfortable beds to sleep in, and they enjoy their stay and endless services. Then they simply check out. My only mistake while considering this option was that I wouldn’t be treated like one of those ‘People’ there. In our very first lecture, the term ‘Guest’ was taught to us and how we are not them. We are the ones who would serve them. We would be the waiters, the cooks, the greeters, the bartenders, etc. We wouldn’t be drinking with them but watching them while they would be cavorting. That was a shocker! So many things happen in a hotel, and hoteliers make those things happen. They do all the hard work. The Bakery Chef would spend hours decorating the cake, which the guests would smash on each other's faces. The housekeeper would clean the bathtub while the guest would take five more baths after that. The front desk agent would be greeting the guest during check-in, and the guest would throw tantrums because of his arduous journey. Suddenly my bubble broke, and I realised what I really signed for. I signed for an everyday vacation in hell. Who Survives? I think adulthood is about that realisation when you get to know that bread isn’t free. And what buys that bread isn’t that easy to get. And how much that thing matters to you is going to decide how happy you are going to be in your life. If I was that guy who had grown up watching Masterchef and experimenting in the Kitchen all my life, then a Gordon Ramsey could have come out of me. If I were a fastidious guy who wanted everything to be clean and perfect, then an entrepreneur or a manager could have come out of me who would have tried to do that during his job. If I were a guy who loved making people smile, then interacting with guests while serving the food or taking their check-ins would have been the best things out there for me. You get my point! There are so many things that could have made hotel management an ideal career choice for me. It really is a glamorous industry, and it can provide satisfaction as a career option to some people out there. But that wasn’t the case with me. Sadly that wasn’t the case with many of my batchmates and colleagues of mine as well. After completing my three-year graduation, four-month industrial training, and one-year job as a Front Desk Agent, I quit. Nor could the managers inspire me, nor any other incentives that the industry had to offer. My future looked as grim as the life of an insect (No offence to you if you are an insect.) So yes, be wise before choosing this industry because this industry demands a lot! It is one of the most selfless jobs out there, and you have to be prepared for the nasty feedbacks after all your hard work. So do some self-inspection (Unlike me) if you are stuck in this industry or are planning to do so. And if you love where you are right now, then as I said, you have my respect.

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Hospitality Management

Upselling & Cross-selling Techniques in Hospitality Management

Article | July 24, 2023

Leverage upselling and cross-selling techniques to elevate hospitality & tourism businesses. Discover the strategies used to boost revenue by adapting upselling and cross selling techniques in hotels. 1. Introduction 2. Cross-selling Vs Upselling: Which One Is More Optimal? 2.1. Defining the Two Techniques 2.2. The Key Differences 3. Combining Both the Techniques to Improve Revenue 4. Importance of Implementing the Techniques in Hotel Businesses 5. Conclusion 1. Introduction The hospitality industry is highly competitive, and hotels must find ways to boost revenue beyond room rates and taxes. The key to success in this field is to tailor offers to each customer and encourage them to spend more than they had planned. Cross-selling and up-selling are two effective methods of increasing sales. This article explores these methods' nuances in the hospitality sector. By dissecting the advantages of cross-selling and upselling, we can better understand when it makes sense to implement these tactics for maximum profit. The potency of upselling and cross selling techniques in hotels to improve the business and offer enhances guest experiences. Cross-selling Vs Upselling: Which One Is More Optimal? In the hospitality industry , maximizing revenue and enhancing guest experiences are paramount, and whether to prioritize cross-selling or upselling is a question. While often used interchangeably, these sales techniques hold distinctive positions within the buyer journey. 2.1. Defining the Two Techniques Upselling is a sales approach that offers customers a higher-priced or upgraded service or product that aligns with their interests and preferences. In the hospitality industry, it may encompass enticing guests to upgrade their room selection, such as transitioning from a standard room to a mini-suite, either during the booking process or afterward. Additionally, it may involve presenting guests with hotel packages that provide added value and amenities compared to standalone bookings. The aim is to elevate customers to a higher price category and ensure they enjoy an exceptional stay experience. On the other hand, cross-selling entails encouraging guests to purchase supplementary products or services related to their existing purchases. For instance, this could involve offering a spa package or a romantic dinner to enhance their stay. Cross-selling opportunities in the hospitality industry can include add-on activities like city tours or bicycle rentals, in-room extras such as upgraded amenities or specialized equipment, on-site spa and fitness services, food and beverage options such as dining discounts or meal packages, and other hotel services like complimentary parking or transportation. 2.2. The Key Differences 1. Strategy: Upselling focuses on communicating value to customers, persuading them to opt for a higher-priced or upgraded service or product. The emphasis is on showcasing the benefits and added value of the upsell, ensuring customers see the value in paying extra for a superior experience. On the other hand, cross-selling aims to appeal to impulse buying by enticing customers to purchase additional, related products or services that complement their original purchase. 2. Timing: Timing is crucial in both upselling and cross-selling. With upselling, the timing is most effective when done pre-arrival, ideally a week or two before the guest arrives at the hotel. This allows customers to anticipate their upcoming stay and consider upgrading their room or adding extra amenities. Cross-selling can be implemented post-booking, such as during check-in or through targeted email campaigns when customers have already committed to their initial purchase and are more open to additional offers. 3. Value Perception: Upselling techniques relies on effectively communicating the value and benefits of the upgraded or higher-priced offering. Guests need to see the value in paying extra for the enhanced experience. In contrast, cross-selling often involves appealing to customers' desire for convenience or enjoyment by offering travel management services that enhance their stay without necessarily requiring a significant increase in expenditure. 3. Combining Both the Techniques to Improve Revenue Cross-selling is the most effective post-booking and can be implemented in various ways. Firstly, it can be done at the hotel reception during check-in, where guests can be offered add-on items. Secondly, sending an informative email before arrival to highlight additional services is another compelling cross-selling opportunity. Lastly, when guests express interest in a particular service, it presents an opportunity to introduce them to other relevant options. Upselling, however, is particularly effective when implemented pre-arrival, ideally a week or two before guests arrive at the hotel. This technique can be deployed during the browsing and booking, where customers can be presented with room upgrades and add-on items. It is also fruitful to inform customers about better room options at affordable prices before their arrival, tapping into their anticipation for their upcoming vacation. Furthermore, during check-in, providing guests with information on enhancing their stay by spending a little extra can generate additional revenue. To combine the power of both techniques efficiently, companies must employ specialized software. This software automates room upgrades and the promotion of additional ancillaries, providing customers with the convenience and freedom to choose and bid on attractive upgrades before arrival. Advanced customer journey analytics, such as software offers, enable personalized product offers, increasing sales and hotel revenue. 4. Importance of Implementing the Techniques in Hotel Businesses Implementing upselling and cross-selling techniques is vital for hotel businesses, apartment rentals, and hostels. Hotel upselling techniques and cross selling techniques establishments possess unique opportunities to capitalize on these strategies, similar to how airlines offer seat upgrades, meal additions, and car rental options. When choosing accommodations, travelers invest considerable time and thought into finding a place that aligns with the desired ambiance of their trip. As hosts, this presents an ideal opportunity to offer additional products and activities that complement the property's offerings. Unlike airlines, hotel properties often indicate the activities that guests might be interested in, allowing hosts to select the most relevant products to offer. This could involve tailored offerings such as private guided tours to popular tourist attractions or unique underground graffiti tours based on the guests' preferences and digital travel persona. By providing personalized offerings that cater to the customer's needs, hotel businesses enhance the overall guest experience and deliver excellent service. Activities constitute the third-largest segment of the travel industry and are continuously growing. With data revealing that 46% of travelers engage in sightseeing tours, it becomes evident that upselling and cross-selling will play an increasingly significant role in the hospitality industry. 5. Conclusion In the incredibly competitive hospitality industry, implementing upselling and cross-selling techniques is crucial for hotel businesses. By understanding the nuances and distinctions between these strategies, hotels can target customers strategically and increase revenue streams beyond room rates and taxes. Cross selling techniques encourages impulse purchases by offering additional products or services related to the initial investment. By combining both techniques with specialized software, hotels can personalize their offerings, automate their promotions, and provide a seamless experience for their guests. This strategy not only increases revenue but also caters to guests' various preferences, resulting in increased satisfaction and loyalty. As the activities segment of the travel industry continues to expand, the importance of upselling and cross-selling in hospitality management is anticipated to continue rising. In addition, deploying innovative business travel technology solutions can improve hotel businesses in hospitality industry.

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Hospitality Management

This too shall pass - but travel will need to adjust

Article | June 19, 2023

Just over a month ago, many of us sat in our offices, surrounded by colleagues, engaged in deep discussions about how best to leverage the increasing demand in travel this year. As per the World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) forecasts from earlier this year, international tourist arrivals were expected to grow by 4% in 2020, which is not as great as the growth seen in 2017 (7%) and 2018 (6%), but it was still enough to continue fueling the tourism industry, which contributes to about 10.4% of the global GDP and approximately 319 million jobs. We were blissfully unaware of the looming threat of the COVID-19 global pandemic. In fact, several parts of the world failed to take notice of this crown-shaped virus that was about to bring everything to a grinding halt, until March 11, when the World Health Organization officially announced it as a pandemic.

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Travel Technology

Online Travel Fraud: Mitigating Risks & Preventing Slashing Revenues

Article | June 16, 2022

In 2020, the number of suspected online travel fraud attempts in the U.S. jumped by 136.6%. Two years later, the online travel fraud “industry” is still going strong, making online travel agencies and tourism businesses lose their money and reputation. "Traveling has always been when people are more vulnerable. A few hundred years ago, the perpetrators were pirates or highwaymen. Now those criminals are still out there, but they've changed their methods to focus on digital attacks instead." -Caleb Barlow, ex-Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security. Mitigating fraud risk is important in any industry, but it is especially important in industries like travel where competition is fierce and margins are shrinking. The high resale value of its digital goods makes the travel industry vulnerable to fraud. Fortunately, advanced solutions that prevent fraud have shown great results in the airline and travel industries. Machine learning and artificial intelligence tools are improving in efficiency. With their help and a variety of other methods, a good travel fraud prevention team can curb fraud in the travel industry, increase profit margins, and cut down on the costs and time taken for manual reviews of transactions to prevent financial losses. How are Online Travel Agencies Mitigating Fraud Risks and Safeguarding Revenue? Online travel agencies need to be on their toes to preserve their revenue and reputation, and the integrity of their operations to grow and sustain their businesses. Modern online fraud prevention methods can protect you from fraud without jeopardizing the customer experience. Let us look at these methods: Implementing Machine Learning-based Solutions Machine learning-based models can be the backbone of your fraud protection strategy. These models can recognize patterns and predict outcomes. They help you identify anomalies in customer behavior in real time, flag an account-takeover attempt, analyze transaction riskiness, and block them before they result in a chargeback. ML-based fraud detection software like Signifyd and Riskified detects illegitimate activities related to payments, account creation, purchases, and chargebacks. They monitor websites, networks, and applications for fraud and prevent digital payment fraud. It is important to remember that you need to strike a good balance between these preventive measures and your customer experience, so you do not lose business by focusing on only one aspect. Transaction Monitoring This method focuses on the credit card used for booking. Using an intelligence tool, check if there is a mismatch between the user’s IP address and their billing information and if the same user is making too many bookings from the same account or same card. Combine these insights with user verification and fraud scoring tools so you can reject suspicious transactions automatically. Also, keep an eye on changes to bookings to avoid problems, and follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DS S) to make sure card payments are as safe as possible. User Profiling Gather important customer data like email addresses, credit card information, loyalty points, and social networking handles. Behavioral data on what the customer does on your website or your mobile app, the devices through which the customer connects to the website, and their email address or location can help prevent fraud. Additionally, online travel agencies can verify users in the following ways: Use an address verification service (AVS) and a card security code (CVV or CVC). Verify scanned ID documents using SaaS products to add another layer of security to every transaction. Create a blacklist to block specific users if you notice any suspicious attempts. Use device fingerprinting to block devices previously associated with fraudulent activities. Anti-ATO Methods To prevent account takeover attempts, deploy two-factor authentication for travel agents, and 3D secure PIN codes for end customers. Biometric technology and mobile payment wallet apps like Google Pay, and Apple Pay can curb swindlers from getting into a customer’s account without secure pins or fingerprints. Verify Suppliers Set up a process for verifying every supplier before making any payments. Check their business license, business reviews on Google, and check their Google Street View to confirm if a hotel actually exists at the mentioned address. Ensure that there is no correlation between a steep increase in hotel prices and booking activity because it could be a hotel price spike scam. Block Bot Attacks Any kind of abnormal spike in web or app traffic can be an indication of a bot attack. Real-time protection against bots can be a great way to handle illegitimate traffic. Compare every website request against the in-memory pattern database using ML and AI to check and block bots swiftly. Implement networking that can safeguard your domains within milliseconds upon detecting a bad bot. Control Friendly Fraud Chargeback abuses are hard to prevent. The only way to fight back is to document compelling evidence to prove that the said transaction was legitimate. Document order forms, tracking numbers, online travel agency customer communication logs, any kind of travel product redemption evidence, and confirmation for items delivered to an address that matches with the address verification service (AVS). Air France Sped Up Manual Reviews By 70% Air France wanted an easy way to access reliable information on potentially risky transactions. So they chose SEON’s Intelligence Tool. “The time spent by Air France analysts on manual reviews is down by an impressive 70%.” - Eric Facquet, Deputy Manager of Fraud Prevention at Air France Summing It Up Tackle online travel fraud head-on while keeping in mind your end customer. You must protect your customers from fraud in a way that is strong, practical, and well-balanced. This way should cover the customer's entire journey with you, both literally and figuratively. FAQ Which software tools can help with fraud detection? Fraud detection software tools such as SEON, ClickGUARD, Riskified and Oracle Adaptive Access Manager can help detect fraud. How can you improve fraud detection? Use machine learning models to automate processes for fraud investigation, and regularly update rules for detection and how to handle alerts. What does fraud detection software do? Fraud detection software regulates accounts, payments, purchases, and events in real-time to detect any fraudulent activities. It also protects sensitive company and customer data.

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Air Choice One, Your Friendly Midwest Regional Airline, is based in St. Louis, Missouri. A scheduled commuter airline, it was founded in 1979 as the Multi-Aero Corporation. We’re proud to say we’ve been family owned & operated since our inception.

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Travel Technology

TripActions Raises $275M AT $7.25B Valuation

TripActions | October 14, 2021

In less than a year, TripActions has secured a second massive funding round – this time $275 million in Series F growth funding. The round was led by Greenoaks Capital with participation from prior investors Elad Gil, Base Partners and all key existing financial investors and values TripActions at $7.25 billion on a post-money basis. The funding comes less than nine months after TripActions' Series E round of $155 million in January. The travel management company's total funding to date is nearly $1.3 billion. Is an IPO coming soon for the six-year-old company? Michael Sindicich, general manager of TripActions Liquid, the company’s payment and expense management solution, says while an IPO would be a “natural fundraising opportunity and another milestone in our growth,” it is not planned for the near future. “We’ve got quite a lot of cash. We’re making great revenue. We are not in any rush to take the company public at this time,” Sindicich says. The vote of confidence from investors, he says, confirms TripActions’ belief that travel and expense management is “ripe for a tech makeover.” Despite the global impact of COVID-19 on travel, TripActions says it has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels in terms of bookings and revenue and has more than doubled its aggregate travel budget under management from February 2020 through the end of July this year. The gains are due in part to a focus on acquiring new enterprise customers, targeted with the launch of TripActions Enterprise Edition in September 2020. Clients include Heineken, Crate & Barrel, Snowflake, Thomson Reuters and Adobe. “We were there for these customers, they were switching from legacy travel agencies and booking tools, legacy expense platforms, because we were innovating, we were supporting, we were adapting to the way the new world would operate moving forward and that gave them a lot of confidence to actually make a change.” Michael Sindicich, general manager of TripActions Also adding fuel to TripActions' growth in the last 18 months: the launch of Liquid in February 2020, first as a payment solution and then in October 2020 adding expense management tools. Sindicich says transaction volume is similar for Liquid as for core travel, and more than 90% of the new companies TripActions is bringing onboard use its full suite of solutions for corporate travel, expense, spend and payment management. “Seventy-percent of expenses happen while employees are on trips,” he says. “So we’re learning about the power of the end-to-end solution. We built Liquid as a separate team in the beginning... and are now seeing that both platforms together, it’s a one-plus-one-equals-three type of situation.” Along with continuing to develop these products, TripActions will accelerate development of Lemonade, its personal travel booking solution that launched in October 2020. Lemonade gives employees at TripActions’ client companies’ access to negotiated rates and exclusive deals, notifications about COVID requirements and around-the-clock support for their leisure trips. The company is also continuing to develop TripActions Team Travel, a self-serve solution that launched in June to facilitate gatherings of distributed employees. Earlier this month it added support for meetings and events to Team Travel, leveraging the capabilities it gained with its acquisition of Reed & Mackay in May. TripActions will also add staff globally, expand its efforts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa – Europe now represents 30% of TripActions’ business - and, says Sindicich, continue to look for merger and acquisition opportunities. “We’re always looking for companies that would make sense to acquire and work with and add to the portfolio so this could be another deployment of this capital as well,” he says. “There’s not a prospect we are announcing or have in mind right now, but it would be natural for us to also look at other opportunities as well since we see Reed & Mackay is working so well for us.”

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Features and Advice

American Express GBT, Cvent Add Corporate Responsibility Questions To Hotel RFP

Cvent, American Express Global Business Travel | September 06, 2021

In an effort to gather and standardize data related to corporate social responsibility efforts at hotels, American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) and Cvent have created new questions for suppliers to answer as a supplement to the Global Business Travel Association’s request for proposals template. The joint initiative includes 47 questions focused on sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion that are intended to help travel managers evaluate suppliers on these issues. To develop the questions, GBT’s Global Business Consulting team (GBC) and Cvent interviewed corporations, global hotel brands, travel management companies and consultancies. The companies say along with helping travel managers evaluate hotels, the questions benefit hotels by reducing the time needed to respond to individual requests for information on these topics. “As we accelerate the return to travel and events, customer requests for supplier data on corporate responsibility issues are soaring,” says Nina Marcello, a principal within GBC who first proposed the initiative. “Together, GBC and Cvent worked with stakeholders across corporate and meetings travel to deliver a solution that will increase the availability of relevant sustainability and DE&I data. This initiative reflects our own environmental, social and governance commitments and enables suppliers and travel managers around the world to further their corporate responsibility goals. ” Hotel suppliers answer the supplemental questions, related to things such as carbon emissions and leadership demographics, within the Cvent Transient solution. Hotel chains can also work with their properties to collect and import the information to their profiles. “The speed at which we developed these questions reflects the significance of this work, and they are already being used by our hotel clients. This initiative benefits the entire corporate travel supply chain by facilitating the sharing and reporting of important topics that impact every organization,” says Brian Sullivan, senior director of product management at Cvent.

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Travel Technology

HUAWEI INVESTS $100M IN STARTUPS, MAKES FIRST TRAVEL MOVE IN MIDDLE EAST

Huawei | August 26, 2021

As part of its move away from hardware, Huawei is scaling up its cloud services and startup support in Asia Pacific and, while travel and hospitality is not top of mind yet, its move into this vertical seems inevitable with the expansion of its headquarters in Singapore and a recent first move in the Middle East. Huawei, facing pressure in Western markets and a slowdown in consumer business amid U.S. sanctions, has been steadily moving its focus away from manufacturing to become a tech and software company that believes “deeply in the power of digital technology to provide fresh solutions to the problems the world is facing right now. "We will keep on innovating to help build a low-carbon, intelligent world,” said Eric Xu, Huawei’s Rotating Chairman, at the release of business results for the first half earlier this month. In the Middle East, travel marketplace Wego is the first travel player to sign a partnership with Huawei’s Petal Search to integrate the travel app into Huawei smartphones. “The world of travel and hospitality has entered a new era of m-commerce, as more than 60% of travellers rely entirely on smartphone applications when making their travel plans. Pre-installing the Wego app into smartphones is part of our continuous efforts to enable these travellers to get the best deals and options when shopping for their holiday,” says Mamoun Hmedan, Wego managing director for MENA and India. From May, all Huawei smartphones EMUI 5 and above bundled with the Wego app will be made available across stores in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Pakistan. “Over the last few years, we have been noticing a significant rise in the number of Wego users on Huawei devices. Interestingly, it has also been noted that Huawei smartphone users tend to spend more on travel than the average Android user,” says Hmedan. In the startup space, Huawei announced its plan to invest $100 million in the ecosystem, with the funds going towards its Spark Program in the Asia Pacific region over the next three years. Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand are the priority markets and at the Huawei Cloud Spark Founders Summit in July, it announced the programme would develop four additional startup hubs – Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. The overarching aim is to recruit a total of 1,000 startups into the Spark accelerator program and shaping 100 of them into scaleups. Speaking at the Summit, Huawei senior vice president and board member Catherine Chen said 34 years ago, Huawei was a startup with just $5,000 of registered capital. “Recently, we have been thinking: How can we leverage our experience and resources to help more startups address their challenges? Doing so would allow them to seize the opportunities posed by digital transformation, achieve business success, and develop more innovative products and solutions for the world.” Alexis Lee, Spark program manager at Huawei Cloud and AI Asia Pacific, who joined the team in January, told WebInTravel that 40 startups came through in the first cohort and about eight to 10 were identified to enter the “Spark Fire” programme, an accelerator. Zhang Ping’an, senior vice president of Huawei, CEO of Huawei Cloud BU, and president of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service, announced at the Summit that “we have already helped four of these startups launch new products and completely transform their businesses, while helping eight enter new markets”. It is currently in the midst of selecting the second cohort – entries closed last week. Lee, who previously worked in the investor space and was at Grab for two years, said how Huawei differentiated from other accelerators in Singapore is in its business development strength. “We introduce startups to clients, obviously in China, as well as global. China is obviously the most attractive market for scale up.” It does not take equity, rather it invests in kind, offering cloud infrastructure support in credits as well as a strong mentoring and investor network. “The programme is about building up the startup community, and sharing our resources. We have the tech know-how and the client network to help startups scale.” Areas of interest include anything to do with AI, ML or 5G and industry verticals include fintech, logistics, smart cities, ad tech and insurance tech. Huawei says its global HMS ecosystem is the world’s third largest mobile app ecosystem, serving 4.5 million developers in over 170 countries and regions. The goal is to cultivate over 100,000 HMS cloud-native developers in Asia Pacific over three years. Huawei Cloud is second in China and fifth in the global IaaS market.

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Travel Technology

TripActions Raises $275M AT $7.25B Valuation

TripActions | October 14, 2021

In less than a year, TripActions has secured a second massive funding round – this time $275 million in Series F growth funding. The round was led by Greenoaks Capital with participation from prior investors Elad Gil, Base Partners and all key existing financial investors and values TripActions at $7.25 billion on a post-money basis. The funding comes less than nine months after TripActions' Series E round of $155 million in January. The travel management company's total funding to date is nearly $1.3 billion. Is an IPO coming soon for the six-year-old company? Michael Sindicich, general manager of TripActions Liquid, the company’s payment and expense management solution, says while an IPO would be a “natural fundraising opportunity and another milestone in our growth,” it is not planned for the near future. “We’ve got quite a lot of cash. We’re making great revenue. We are not in any rush to take the company public at this time,” Sindicich says. The vote of confidence from investors, he says, confirms TripActions’ belief that travel and expense management is “ripe for a tech makeover.” Despite the global impact of COVID-19 on travel, TripActions says it has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels in terms of bookings and revenue and has more than doubled its aggregate travel budget under management from February 2020 through the end of July this year. The gains are due in part to a focus on acquiring new enterprise customers, targeted with the launch of TripActions Enterprise Edition in September 2020. Clients include Heineken, Crate & Barrel, Snowflake, Thomson Reuters and Adobe. “We were there for these customers, they were switching from legacy travel agencies and booking tools, legacy expense platforms, because we were innovating, we were supporting, we were adapting to the way the new world would operate moving forward and that gave them a lot of confidence to actually make a change.” Michael Sindicich, general manager of TripActions Also adding fuel to TripActions' growth in the last 18 months: the launch of Liquid in February 2020, first as a payment solution and then in October 2020 adding expense management tools. Sindicich says transaction volume is similar for Liquid as for core travel, and more than 90% of the new companies TripActions is bringing onboard use its full suite of solutions for corporate travel, expense, spend and payment management. “Seventy-percent of expenses happen while employees are on trips,” he says. “So we’re learning about the power of the end-to-end solution. We built Liquid as a separate team in the beginning... and are now seeing that both platforms together, it’s a one-plus-one-equals-three type of situation.” Along with continuing to develop these products, TripActions will accelerate development of Lemonade, its personal travel booking solution that launched in October 2020. Lemonade gives employees at TripActions’ client companies’ access to negotiated rates and exclusive deals, notifications about COVID requirements and around-the-clock support for their leisure trips. The company is also continuing to develop TripActions Team Travel, a self-serve solution that launched in June to facilitate gatherings of distributed employees. Earlier this month it added support for meetings and events to Team Travel, leveraging the capabilities it gained with its acquisition of Reed & Mackay in May. TripActions will also add staff globally, expand its efforts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa – Europe now represents 30% of TripActions’ business - and, says Sindicich, continue to look for merger and acquisition opportunities. “We’re always looking for companies that would make sense to acquire and work with and add to the portfolio so this could be another deployment of this capital as well,” he says. “There’s not a prospect we are announcing or have in mind right now, but it would be natural for us to also look at other opportunities as well since we see Reed & Mackay is working so well for us.”

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Features and Advice

American Express GBT, Cvent Add Corporate Responsibility Questions To Hotel RFP

Cvent, American Express Global Business Travel | September 06, 2021

In an effort to gather and standardize data related to corporate social responsibility efforts at hotels, American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) and Cvent have created new questions for suppliers to answer as a supplement to the Global Business Travel Association’s request for proposals template. The joint initiative includes 47 questions focused on sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion that are intended to help travel managers evaluate suppliers on these issues. To develop the questions, GBT’s Global Business Consulting team (GBC) and Cvent interviewed corporations, global hotel brands, travel management companies and consultancies. The companies say along with helping travel managers evaluate hotels, the questions benefit hotels by reducing the time needed to respond to individual requests for information on these topics. “As we accelerate the return to travel and events, customer requests for supplier data on corporate responsibility issues are soaring,” says Nina Marcello, a principal within GBC who first proposed the initiative. “Together, GBC and Cvent worked with stakeholders across corporate and meetings travel to deliver a solution that will increase the availability of relevant sustainability and DE&I data. This initiative reflects our own environmental, social and governance commitments and enables suppliers and travel managers around the world to further their corporate responsibility goals. ” Hotel suppliers answer the supplemental questions, related to things such as carbon emissions and leadership demographics, within the Cvent Transient solution. Hotel chains can also work with their properties to collect and import the information to their profiles. “The speed at which we developed these questions reflects the significance of this work, and they are already being used by our hotel clients. This initiative benefits the entire corporate travel supply chain by facilitating the sharing and reporting of important topics that impact every organization,” says Brian Sullivan, senior director of product management at Cvent.

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HUAWEI INVESTS $100M IN STARTUPS, MAKES FIRST TRAVEL MOVE IN MIDDLE EAST

Huawei | August 26, 2021

As part of its move away from hardware, Huawei is scaling up its cloud services and startup support in Asia Pacific and, while travel and hospitality is not top of mind yet, its move into this vertical seems inevitable with the expansion of its headquarters in Singapore and a recent first move in the Middle East. Huawei, facing pressure in Western markets and a slowdown in consumer business amid U.S. sanctions, has been steadily moving its focus away from manufacturing to become a tech and software company that believes “deeply in the power of digital technology to provide fresh solutions to the problems the world is facing right now. "We will keep on innovating to help build a low-carbon, intelligent world,” said Eric Xu, Huawei’s Rotating Chairman, at the release of business results for the first half earlier this month. In the Middle East, travel marketplace Wego is the first travel player to sign a partnership with Huawei’s Petal Search to integrate the travel app into Huawei smartphones. “The world of travel and hospitality has entered a new era of m-commerce, as more than 60% of travellers rely entirely on smartphone applications when making their travel plans. Pre-installing the Wego app into smartphones is part of our continuous efforts to enable these travellers to get the best deals and options when shopping for their holiday,” says Mamoun Hmedan, Wego managing director for MENA and India. From May, all Huawei smartphones EMUI 5 and above bundled with the Wego app will be made available across stores in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Pakistan. “Over the last few years, we have been noticing a significant rise in the number of Wego users on Huawei devices. Interestingly, it has also been noted that Huawei smartphone users tend to spend more on travel than the average Android user,” says Hmedan. In the startup space, Huawei announced its plan to invest $100 million in the ecosystem, with the funds going towards its Spark Program in the Asia Pacific region over the next three years. Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand are the priority markets and at the Huawei Cloud Spark Founders Summit in July, it announced the programme would develop four additional startup hubs – Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. The overarching aim is to recruit a total of 1,000 startups into the Spark accelerator program and shaping 100 of them into scaleups. Speaking at the Summit, Huawei senior vice president and board member Catherine Chen said 34 years ago, Huawei was a startup with just $5,000 of registered capital. “Recently, we have been thinking: How can we leverage our experience and resources to help more startups address their challenges? Doing so would allow them to seize the opportunities posed by digital transformation, achieve business success, and develop more innovative products and solutions for the world.” Alexis Lee, Spark program manager at Huawei Cloud and AI Asia Pacific, who joined the team in January, told WebInTravel that 40 startups came through in the first cohort and about eight to 10 were identified to enter the “Spark Fire” programme, an accelerator. Zhang Ping’an, senior vice president of Huawei, CEO of Huawei Cloud BU, and president of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service, announced at the Summit that “we have already helped four of these startups launch new products and completely transform their businesses, while helping eight enter new markets”. It is currently in the midst of selecting the second cohort – entries closed last week. Lee, who previously worked in the investor space and was at Grab for two years, said how Huawei differentiated from other accelerators in Singapore is in its business development strength. “We introduce startups to clients, obviously in China, as well as global. China is obviously the most attractive market for scale up.” It does not take equity, rather it invests in kind, offering cloud infrastructure support in credits as well as a strong mentoring and investor network. “The programme is about building up the startup community, and sharing our resources. We have the tech know-how and the client network to help startups scale.” Areas of interest include anything to do with AI, ML or 5G and industry verticals include fintech, logistics, smart cities, ad tech and insurance tech. Huawei says its global HMS ecosystem is the world’s third largest mobile app ecosystem, serving 4.5 million developers in over 170 countries and regions. The goal is to cultivate over 100,000 HMS cloud-native developers in Asia Pacific over three years. Huawei Cloud is second in China and fifth in the global IaaS market.

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