The following was featured as a Business Travel Executive Industry Profile, June 2009
“We want to proactively grow our products to not only meet the demands of the marketplace,” says Carmine Carpanzano, president and CEO of nuTravel, “but also exceed its every expectation, by offering the right tools for the right time.”
It’s a laudable ambition but changes in the managed business travel industry — Carpanzano’s marketplace — have not made it easy to identify the right time. Over this decade, staying ahead of the curve has been something akin to riding a rollercoaster sidesaddle. The twists and bucks have been dizzying. Although many people saw a recession coming in early 2001, no one in the industry predicted the events of early September, much less their magnification of what might have otherwise been a simple market correction. Ten months later, nuTravel stepped onto the stage.
Since then, its open, modularized and expandable architecture has allowed it to not only work well in an undulating economy but work with multiple vendors and serve customers with unique needs. 2009 is no exception.
All along, nuTravel has been able to change with the rough and tumble times, often with the assistance of its partners. One of the earliest emerging challenges it took on was the need for non-GDS access to airfares. nuTravel engaged AgentWare in November 2003 and less than a year later unveiled nuTravel Corporate Travel Solution (CTS), a self-booking tool capable of providing access to both GDS and non-GDS inventories as well as negotiated airfares.
The pattern has been repeated several times in the few years since: the industry begins to recognize an emerging concern, nuTravel taps a partner to provide an early solution then chips away to provide more a little further down the road. CTS is always at the core of the process.
In 2006, nuTravel unveiled an automated fee structure that gave travel agencies a more predictable income stream: the first 1,000 transactions would be $5; the next 4,000, $4.25; any beyond 5,000 would cost $3.50. The fees were based on airline bookings; if hotel and rental cars were added later, there was no additional charge.
It was a welcome innovation then. But the economy has twisted again. In response, nuTravel is launching another unique pricing structure, one designed to help travel agencies maintain their competitive edge and their corporate customers save money.
This time transaction-based fees are completely eliminated. Instead, corporations pay one price per user for all the functionality nuTravel CTS has to offer, booking to travel to expense management. Users book as much — or as little — as they want; there are no hidden fees or incremental costs.
Aiming For The Middle
nuTravel has also revamped its travel and expense management, via a new partnership with Certify.com, which specializes in the needs of small and mid-sized companies.
This isn’t the first time nuTravel has offered a T&E solution. Nor is it the first time that it has focused on the small and mid-sized business market. In 2006, the same year it unveiled that tiered pricing model, says Joseph Ascanio, director of interactive media and marketing, nuTravel rolled out its ExpenSite T&E management tool into CTS. The payoff was increased control over bookings, particularly through the pre-trip approval function that is getting so much interest throughout the industry today. The tool maximized what savings were possible at the time by emphasizing use of preferred vendors.
Since it minimized the entries that travelers were required to make and worked right through to reimbursement, user support was maximized. The Certify collaboration, announced in March — at the same time Carpanzano made his statement about exceeding expectations — has produced a new tool, titled nuTravel CTS Expense Tracker. As with its earlier version, nuTravel has kept small and mid-sized businesses in mind.
Certify’s expense management system is available in both personal and corporate versions.
Industry interest in the small- to midsized business sector has been quietly growing since the beginning of the decade as providers began taking careful measure of the travel and entertainment being purchased by successful entrepreneurs. That focus is becoming more intense in the current economy as corporations already accustomed to managing their business travelers are compressed into smaller operations, and operations that are already small are faced with the reality of how important their T&E budgets are to their bottom lines.
Banning The Bill Collection Blues
Regardless of the size of the corporate user, the nuTravel-Certify combined tool has a lot to offer. No matter where they are, travelers can begin using CTS Expense Tracker immediately and get full access to a range of innovative tools. There’s no time out for implementation or set-up.
The process begins with Certify’s Receipt Capture. In the office, travelers can use scanners and web cameras attached to their desktop computers to make images of their receipts. On the road, their iPhone or Blackberry cameras do the job.
From either beginning, the receipts are transmitted — by e-mail, computer upload or fax — to the Certify Wallet, a central repository for all the receipts destined for Expense Tracker and management review. If there’s no time or no receipt, travelers can use their mobile phone’s text message function to create and send a memo. When they’re ready, they compile their collected receipts into Microsoft Excel or PDF documents and forward them to their managers.
There’s a currency conversion function, able to work with more than 132 currencies, available to all users. Likewise, corporate policy is documented for both sides.
If it tames much of the angst of business travel, the system also makes life a lot easier for corporate travel departments and back offices. For corporate oversight and expense management, CTS Expense Tracker provides features like travel policy enforcement, line item expense approval and extensive reporting capabilities. In the back office, late expense reports don’t delay closing of the books quite as often.
And automated real-time integration with accounting, accounts payable and payroll systems keeps a lot of people happy.
A Hard Look At Face-to-face
The value of small and mid-sized businesses is not the only topic getting a hard look courtesy of the current recession. Executives have long been satisfied with their gut conviction that face-to-face contact brings the best and quickest results. Now tight budgets and tighter attitudes are forcing them to prove it. To meet this challenge, nuTravel is linking its corporate self-booking tool with ResRunner’s registration and housing system.
The result: CTS Groups and Meetings.
It’s not the first time that nuTravel has been used in the meetings space. Even this spring’s announcement of the collaboration between nuTravel and ResRunner was not the first time the two companies had worked together. Their relationship began two years ago; then the innovation of a single sign-on for both meeting registration and travel booking was a serious innovation.
This spring’s announcement of their further collaboration went further. This time they took direct aim at the unnecessary spending that has endangered the perceived value of meetings and events.
Ease of use will build adoption of the powerful potential, said Carpanzano then: “With CTS Groups and Meetings built into the registration process, there is no need for travelers to go elsewhere… it will help companies take control of costs by streamlining the travel booking process, leading to increased staff productivity and the elimination of unnecessary spending.”
Attention to detail, even in a customized process, is the key. ResRunner supplies a variety of functions:
- The system will accommodate ala carte choices or package deals; provide standard or custom reporting in a variety of formats, always in real time.
- Expensive mail communications are completely side-stepped with the ability to deliver e-mail and fax correspondence directly through the event’s intuitive, online user interface.
- Costs can be further offset by offering advertising and sponsorship units directly on the event’s customized web site page.
- Inventories of registration items, hotel rooms and meeting space are automatically tracked, eliminating the risk of overselling availability, holding onto room blocks that are too large or running into scheduling conflicts and constricted space for meeting sessions.
- Payments can be made securely online through Verisign.
- Attendee registrations are taken online and automatically populated throughout the system — sessions to be attended, meals reserved, etc.
Then nuTravel’s CTS makes its own — by now familiar — contributions:
- That single sign-on and password synchronization.
- Automatic self-registration.
- Search criteria specification.
- The ability to handle multiple passengers in a single booking.
- Access to preferred vendors and their discounts.
- Incorporation of corporate travel policy and the resulting growth in compliance.
Everything is in place. Now, says Carpanzano, “The current economic climate is certainly affecting corporate travel by placing financial barriers between good business practices and goals.” That will change.
When the economy begins to pull out of this downturn and corporations are ready to get back to business, those who have engaged CTS Groups and Meetings will, like nuTravel, be just a bit ahead of the curve.
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