Skip to content

Online travel platforms tapping into business travel rebound

Most reports say business travel is on the rebound and will match, perhaps even exceed, 2019 levels. An increasing number of online players want a piece of the action and are tailoring initiatives accordingly.

This is particularly true as regards small- to medium-size businesses (SMB) and the unmanaged segment.

Large players such as have had business travel units for some time, but there is now renewed effort to attract this segment of the market. said its for Business unit is designed for the SMB market and in recent months it has been building out its offering through partnerships with Expensify and Traxo.

While the company declined to say how big an opportunity it believes business travel represents, it highlighted internal data that revealed business travelers stayed 5% longer on average in the first half of 2023 versus 2019.

The company acknowledges that the business travel service took a back seat during the pandemic for obvious reasons but said it took the time to build on the customer experience.

“It has always been our plan to bring the power of well run corporate travel programs to the small to medium business segment and figure a way to do that at scale,” the company said.

China’s Group, meanwhile, has revealed more about its business travel efforts in recent months and reported  revenue growth. In its first quarter 2024 earnings, the company said its corporate travel revenue increased 15% year over year to $71 million. 

Business travel comes under the unit within the group, which also recently announced a booking and approval app for the segment. The enables flight and hotel booking for travelers as well as some post-booking services such as refund requests. It also allows travel managers to manage approvals centrally.

In a recent interview, chief operating officer Schubert Lou said the company wanted to expand its business travel footprint in Asia first and is developing how it can provide an all-in-one solution but still offer some localization.

Regional push

Wego and Cleartrip are also keeping the focus regional. Wego, in line with its leisure focus on the Middle East, is looking to widen that to business travel. It acquired business travel and expense management platform Travelstop just under a year ago to help it build its business travel service.

Wego CEO Ross Veitch estimated corporate travel in the region is about $40 billion and a large share of that is unmanaged.

“We see a lot of these people on Wego today. It’s really obvious, they’re out of Dubai to Riyadh for a limited time, it’s lots of self-managed business trips. It was an obvious opportunity to tailor something a bit more to that market.” 

Part of the strategy is to let employees sign themselves up to the platform, invite colleagues and then human resources or finance can “claim the account,” said Veitch.

He added that most of those signing up are from the unmanaged segment, which he described as the “biggest opportunity.”

“The second biggest is people using legacy travel management companies or have a relationship with a travel agency.”

Travelstop, which continues to work with its customers in Asia Pacific and India, recently became Wego Pro on the platform, and the company is working to further develop services for business travel.

“We’re working to properly integrate the supply from Wego to Wego Pro, and we’re doing a lot of work around single sign on.”

Further growth could come from setting up a B2B2C product because the company has noticed traditional travel agencies signing up to use the service. Veitch said he’s also eyeing potential acquisitions of “good TMC businesses with good client bases” as part of its business travel strategy.

India-based OTA Cleartrip, which was acquired by Walmart-owned Flipkart in 2021, also has ambitions for business travel.

While it’s up against the likes of MakeMyTrip and Yatra, the company recently unveiled its OOO (out of office) business travel tool and said its focus is also on SMBs and large corporations.

Sukesh Shetty, head of B2B at Cleartrip, said the company wanted to “tap into the growing demand for efficient corporate travel management solutions.” 

“Recognizing that a significant portion of our customer base comprises business travelers in need of more sophisticated tools, we developed OOO, a one-stop travel management platform.”

The technology offers functionality, including booking and automatic travel policy compliance.

Shetty added that the company has also tried to solve pain points such as invoicing and limited customization with OOO. Further enhancements in the pipeline include tighter expense integration, more flexible travel options and supplier partnerships to provide better rates for travelers and their employers.

Shetty described business travel as a significant growth opportunity for the company and said the goal is for the segment to contribute about 40% of Cleartrip’s overall business. 

While hotel groups and international airlines highlighted the business travel rebound in recent earnings, the success of traditionally leisure online players will depend on getting their product with relevant content and functionality in front of travelers. They also have to compete with the ambitions of established travel management companies such as American Express Global Business Travel, BCD and FCM who have made no secret of their plans to target the SMB and unmanaged groups of travelers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *