Next-generation travel on the Moove

Pamela Whitby speaks to a new start-up and a not-so-new start up shaking up the evolving world of business travel where the demands are becoming greener and more leisure-like by the day

Innovation has been slow to come to the world of business travel but a new breed of companies is embracing nimble solutions that meet the needs of the new-age traveller.

Bootstrapped Moove Technologies, recently named one of 40 out of a thousand promising start-ups by STATION F, a leading start-up incubator in Paris, is one. The founding team, who hail from Traveldoo, a corporate booking tool solution that was acquired by Expedia in 2011, understand that no traveller wants a clunky, dated experience that is typical of the old-school travel management tools. Instead, they want booking business travel to mirror their leisure travel experience! Better still, they want these tools to go even further.

We are increasingly seeing that the younger generation perceive travel as travel

Jeroen van Velzen, CEO, Roadmap

Moove Chief Commercial Officer Kien Heang says one of the key differentiators of the Moove app is that it allows users to have two profiles, one for business and one for personal travel. “It is this that makes us unique,” he says. What the French start-up is doing mirrors the two-profile approach of Uber in the ride-hailing space, but the firm is going a step further. It is looking to service the end-to-end journey, be it for leisure or business, with an all-in-one travel and mobility platform for travellers and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). “There is still a lot of friction in the travel experience today and this is what we are looking to solve,” says Heang.

Dutch firm Roadmap, an all-in-one corporate travel platform for blue-chip companies is another one that is addressing friction while the traveller is on the road, albeit for a little longer than early-stage Moove. With 90% of its business being done in the US, Roadmap clients include Microsoft, Nike, LinkedIn and Tommy Hilfiger, to name a few. CEO Jeroen van Velzen says growth has come from “never deviating from the goal of delivering ‘traveller happiness’”.

Van Velzen also sees the blurring lines between business and leisure travel. And, we are not just talking here about ‘bleisure’ travel, the growing trend to tag a leisure trip onto a business trip, but rather a fundamental shift in customer behaviour. “We are increasingly seeing that the younger generation perceive travel as travel. Often the work never stops and so if they have to travel for business, they want to turn into an experience that is worth sharing,” he says. If the corporate tools don’t deliver, increasingly road warriors are booking out of policy, and this is a growing headache for travel managers.

Crazy opportunity

A recent report from Allied Market Research predicts that the business travel market will reach $1.657bn by 2023. “The money flow into this industry is crazy,” admits van Velzen, who believes there is huge upside for those companies that can keep up.

While Roadmap’s focus is on the blue-chip brigade, with 90% of its customers in the US, Europe-focused Moove is going after SMEs, which today remain the largest unmanaged segment of the market.

Says Heang: “Our entry point is frequent leisure and business travellers and SMEs, as they don't yet have any solution to handle easily their business trips. Aside from delivering a user experience with the traveller’s needs top of mind, a big selling point, will be centralising company payments and invoices and making the painful expense reporting process a thing of the past.”

Of course, he doesn’t rule out working with bigger firms either, and says already blue-chip business travellers have signed up for the app.

Green credentials

Although Moove’s goal is a multimodal platform servicing the end-to-end customer journey, the group has started with integrating the deregulating European rail network into its platform, a huge opportunity given the growing demand for more sustainable transport from leisure and business travellers alike.

Speaking at a recent Rail Innovation Forum in Nice, held by tech firm Amadeus, Antonio Perea, a Global Travel and Expense Manager at the Spanish energy firm CEPSA, outlined the group’s “conscious efforts” to switch its corporate travellers to greener modes of travel, and the rationale behind the move. For example, a rail journey between Madrid and Valencia generates 9kilos of CO2 emissions vs 137 kilos for the same journey by air. For this reason, 91% of all CEPSA trips today are made by high-speed rail; not only is this a greener way to travel, it also saves time and money, Perea said.

Only those companies that will push some actions around the environment might manage to stay in the game.

Kien Heang, CCO, Moove Technologies

Roadmap's clients are also making sustainability demands. “They are asking ‘how do we prevent people from travelling’,” explains van Velzen. “This ties into ‘bleisure’ issue as well. If the traveller already boarded that plane [for business] why not make that a leisure trip that might help save the planet as well.”

Given the green revolution, little wonder that rail is the starting point for Moove, which has already signed agreements with the likes of Thalys, SNCF and Eurostar, and expects to rapidly increase European rail operator coverage in the coming months. Air content and ground transportation, including rides, short-term car rental and shared mobility services, will follow. Looking ahead, hotels and even tours and activities could also be integrated into the platform, but that is some way off.

While all acknowledge that there will always be a place for corporate air travel in the future, some tough battles lie ahead. In Heang's view: “Only those companies that push some actions around the environment might manage to stay in the game.”

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