Why was this necessary? Surely the GDS heavyweights, such as Galileo and Amadeus, give corporate travellers what they need?
“For us the game is maximum choice and lowest cost,” says Philip Katz, CEO of Travelit at Tourvest Travel Services. “With these three aggregators on board, the spread in pricing we offer is significant and hugely variable. None of them, nor any of the GDS providers, always return the best prices. Therefore, having access to all of them on one screen dramatically increases your chance of getting the best deal on the day. In addition, Booking.com and Expedia add properties that fall outside the traditional corporate portfolio, which gives our clients even more choice.”
Importantly, all three of these travel product services allow integration with clients’ travel policies. The latter is non-negotiable in corporate travel, particularly when balancing duty of care with budget.
“With corporate travel, companies make decisions on behalf of their employees, and as such assume responsibility for the outcome of those choices,” says Katz. “Policies therefore prevent a corporate traveller, for example, from booking hotels in unsafe areas or flying with airlines whose routes pass through hostile airspace.”
Given how easily travel costs can balloon, corporate policies are also designed to control expenditure. Travelit supports this imperative by dealing with the full trip requirement – from flights to visas, vehicle hire, accommodation, and everything in between – and then tying it all together at the end of the trip with full reporting and financial integration into the corporate system. The result is complete visibility and an audit trail as clear as day.
With 600,000 users, Travelit is South Africa’s biggest ecommerce site and while competitors are starting to snap at its heels, the quality it offers is variable. Katz, therefore, urges corporate buyers to interrogate value propositions thoroughly and not be blinded by unrealistically low service fees.
“Fees constitute between 5% and 7% of total travel costs,” he says. “The other 95% is where the real money lies and the real savings can be made. A 10% discount on the 95% can be an enormous saving, far more than what 0.15% off the service fee will deliver. Astute corporate buyers should therefore focus on the capability of their service provider to realise savings on flights, accommodation, vehicle hire, meals and so on.”
“It is critical to understand that providers compete heavily and constantly, and clients save when they can take advantage of special offers,” says Katz. “Travelit enables this by giving clients access to the widest choice possible and by constantly finding innovative ways – such as integrating with non-traditional suppliers – to make the bargain-hunting net bigger and bigger, all within the context of the client’s travel policy.”
It’s no surprise, therefore, to hear Tourvest Travel Services CEO, Morne du Preez, say that “we are not just a travel management company, we are a technology company that provides travel management services.”
This statement supports the progression Tourvest has made over the last number of years in the online technology space.
Travelit has evolved from a purely online booking solution to an end-to-end travel and expense management solution. Expense management forms a critical part of travel, providing companies and travellers with the transparency and visibility needed to understand and identify the true cost of travel.
Mobility has become a key factor for any traveller and company, to ensure ease and convenience for both receiving travel documentation and capturing expenses on the go. Travelit has developed its own mobile app to cater for this functionality, which has been exceptionally well received within the market place.
Katz and Barry Painting, Travelit’s CIO, believe that with the app, they’ve developed something unique and ground-breaking in a South African context.
The pair drew on their own experiences as business travellers and identified all the different touchpoints along the corporate travel journey that might require a technical solution, and provide for integration into an app. And then they built a solution that was user-friendly for customers, with a focus on producing something that required as fewer ‘clicks’ as possible.
The app begins with the traveller’s profile, which covers everything from personal information and contact details to preferences, loyalty numbers, policy group, card in pocket, and copies of ID, passport, visa, vaccination and car licence documents. Additional functionality includes all the traveller’s trips and itineraries and an easy-to-use expense claim section.
The app is an extension of the online portal, making it customizable to specific corporates and travel policies. It’s also been set up for online offline functionality and doesn’t require an internet connection.
“Ours is that corporate, that traveller, that policy group, those vendors,” says Painting. “It’s the same as Travelit does, and it’s very specific to the individual traveller, the company, and the company’s policy group.”
Travelit’s business strategy incorporates and provides solutions for the challenges that it faces within this very dynamic, unique and ever-changing continent, Africa. Payment solutions for suppliers, effective communication to travellers, providing the necessary inventory and delivering the necessary savings to clients, are all key to its success.
As a result, Tourvest Travel Services remains the market leader in providing online travel management services.