BCD Travel sets out tech playbook, creates marketplace for third parties

BCD Travel has developed a platform for corporate travellers and bookers to access third party services.

At launch, the marketplace will include a number of startups including Fairfly and Freebird and some who have been around a little longer such as Rocketrip and Yapta.

The marketplace is called SolutionSource and enables the travel management company to open up access to some of the new technologies in the corporate travel landscape.

BCD Travel’s SVP product planning and development Yannis Karmis says pressure to open up these new companies to its clients drove the need for a marketplace experience.

Open for business

He describes it as building a “technology playbook” with the company deciding what to build internally and who to work with externally.

It’s an interesting move at a time when many startups are putting pressure on every facet of corporate travel distribution.

It is one of the remaining sectors where money is perceived to be left on the table and currently attracting the attention from the investment community – think TravelBank last August and TripActions a year ago.

Having an open marketplace helps BCD stay on top of technology innovation as well as offer these services to its client base. It could also be viewed as a means to bring the more maverick, unmanaged travel element back into the fold.

On first impressions, SolutionSource is not unlike the Concur App Center, launched in the US 2013 or Sabre Red App Centre in terms of making it easier for corporate clients to access wider solutions.

However, BCD Travel director of product planning Irina Matz says that, as a TMC, the company also needs to think about how it integrates with this type of content and who it’s for – booker, buyer, traveller.

Karmis adds that it’s leveraging the best of what’s out in the industry through a marketplace experience.

“TMCs are rapidly evolving to also be technology companies and all investing very heavily in technology.  The types of partners we want to bring in have got very compelling propositions for our clients. It’s about making sure we have an effective way to bring them in and create more standardisation in terms of how we work to simplify implementation, bring integration costs down and iterate more quickly is critical.”

He also says that it’s about acting in a consultative role to help clients understand how some of these newer technologies fit in with their programs.

The marketplace will have a combination of startups and more established companies as it aims to provide value to companies in traditional sectors including banks and law firms as well as online players.

In a statement, LinkedIn global travel operations manager Leslie Hadden says:

“Keeping up with technology is time consuming. SolutionSource will not only help me identify relevant travel technology, it will also give me confidence that the solutions I choose for LinkedIn will easily integrate into my travel program.”

Matz says there is demand from BCD Travel clients for the “unique solutions” provided by companies such as Rocketrip and Freebird, and others in the pipeline.

A large part of the work involved is around ensuring BCD APIs are easily accessible and providing the necessary capabilities but also having controls in place in terms of information provided. Karmis says:

“We need to be flexible, adaptive and quicker to market but we also need to bring in a  standardised implementation plan.”

SolutionSource joins BCD Travel’s other platforms – TripSource for travellers to access itineraries, information and make hotel bookings and, its data platform DecisionSource.

Image Domenico Loia

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