After more than three years of focusing on serving the unmanaged and lightly managed corporate travel segment, Upside Business Travel is widening its potential audience to include companies with fully managed programs.
Upside’s new distribution strategy is centered on private-labeling its online travel booking platform for travel management companies to offer their corporate clients. Omega World Travel is the first TMC to offer Upside’s platform, and Upside is planning to add more regional U.S. TMCs to its partnership roster.
Upside chief commercial officer Jason Wynn said wading into the TMC distribution channel was driven largely by consideration of how the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the structure of the corporate travel ecosystem.
The pandemic “has thrown pre-existing playbooks out the window,” said Wynn. “The industry will be fundamentally different going forward, so we’ve re-imagined Upside’s long-term strategy by broadening it,” he said, noting that expanding to serve TMC-contracted clients helps “increase the surface area” of Upside’s technology.
Meanwhile, offering a private-label version of Upside helps TMCs fulfill client demand for increased duty-of-care services in the wake of Covid, particularly with regard to information about supplier cleanliness and hygiene protocols, which are expected to be a high priority industrywide moving forward. Upside has integrated such data for both airlines and hotels into its booking tool, along with ATPCO’s Next Generation Storefront, which enables the display of additional granular details for airfares.
“We see this as an advantage for Upside, our TMC partners and their customers,” said Wynn. “TMCs get a platform that caters to the SME segment, customers get a modern, user-friendly experience, and Upside gains a new revenue stream.”
Meanwhile, the higher collective volume will offer “insights to inform future product enhancements,” Wynn added.
Upside is no stranger to TMCs; the company in 2019 sold a 25 percent stake to Flight Centre Travel Group and in 2017 explored a partnership with a network of TMCs, which never came to full fruition.
But even as Upside now enters the TMC channel to serve managed travel buyers, the company isn’t abandoning its original audience.
“[We] plan to continue delivering our all-in-one solution to Upside’s target audience,” noted Wynn. “We remain focused on smaller-sized companies that are unmanaged and out of sight for TMCs.”
TravelBank, another company focused on providing booking and for the lightly managed segment, also recently launched an initiative to distribute its platform via TMCs, starting with World Travel Inc. TravelBank and Upside signed a strategic partnership in July.