Flash Sale! to get a free eCookbook with our top 25 recipes.

Flight Centre Invests in Jay Walker’s Biz Travel Company Upside

While many companies within a previous couple of years have launched intending to disrupt the commercial enterprise travel market, maximum have skilled extreme growing pains alongside the manner.
Upside, which released in beta in 2016 with massive plans to reinvent how business travelers book their trips, has obtained funding from Flight Centre Travel Group alongside an industrial settlement to cooperate on distribution matters.
After acquiring a 25 percent stake in Upside, Flight Centre has become the most critical individual shareholder of the organization. The charge Flight Centre paid for the stake became not disclosed.

The deal follows Flight Centre’s latest investment in 30SecondsToFly and its acquisition of cellular chat provider Sam. It is also Flight Centre’s second corporate journey acquisition in less than a yr after the organization bought California-based Casto Travel late last 12 months. The cost of the funding became no longer disclosed.
Flight Centre operates a diffusion of commercial enterprise tour brands together with Corporate Traveller, FCM Travel Solutions, and Executive Travel. Key to the deal is Upside’s highbrow assets within the artificial intelligence, device getting to know, and packing generation areas.
“They needed to get right of entry to content and an excellent dealer community, and we want more get entry to generation property,” stated John Morhous, Flight Centre Travel Group’s chief enjoy officer. “They were no longer looking to be offered out as a part of the transaction… And from our attitude, we’re not searching to do simply one single deal either. From our vantage point, there are masses of different solutions available and now and then a JV works higher than an acquisition.”
Market Mistake
Jay Walker, the founding father of Priceline, desired to convey consumer travel packaging to business tourists while profitable them with present cards for making greater low-cost selections. The idea for Upside become born, leading the company to raise $50 million from assignment traders. Travelers could be offered packages of flights, vehicle rentals, and lodge stays in a container and obtains gift card rewards based on what they booked. Later on, the organization added a traditional online journey business enterprise-fashion booking.
The hassle is that going after individual commercial enterprise travelers is a far more complicated and steeply-priced proposition than signing on complete agencies and the lots of business vacationers they employ. This is a lesson that Paul English’s Lola found out in recent years after pivoting away from attractive person travelers to presenting light travel management tools, a pass which culminated in funding and partnership with American Express Global Business Travel that seems similar to the Upside settlement.
Upside grew to become to marketing gimmicks like loose Bose headphones for making a reserving at the web site to deliver customers into the fold. It also ran a spread of radio commercials in markets around the U.S., hoping to trap commercial enterprise vacationers who might not paintings at an organization with a severe tour coverage and partnered to create a booking website online for Wall Street Journal readers.
The maximum active, and lucrative, business vacationers already possibly ebook thru a traditional journey control organization, meaning Upside confronted an uphill battle inside the marketplace no matter its advertising spend. And without customers, it’s not most effective tough to generate sales from commissions however also hard to negotiate with journey corporations to get their products for sale to your platform within the first area.
Time to Pivot
In the middle of 2018, Upside quietly started to pivot to greater of a regular enterprise-to-commercial enterprise travel control play rather than a right away-to-patron booking web page; man or woman travelers can now not merely move at the web page and book. It now gives corporate customers three percent cash back on all employer journey as soon as a $a hundred,000 booking threshold is reached.
At the equal time as the pivot, Upside’s Chief Commercial Officer Jason Wynn commenced speak me to Flight Centre about operating collectively.
“The deal has a couple of components to it, the most immediate is that this space that we’re going after, the [small- to medium-sized business] space, clients that don’t have their personal policy, that don’t want to have offline phone service for origination, that they had a heavy interest in stepping into that,” said Wynn.
Startups entering the tour space regularly have problems with access to air and in content, and Wynn says Upside’s courting with Flight Centre will type out all the one’s issues for the enterprise. Also, Upside will increase a plan within the coming months to start global growth and leverage Flight Centre’s worldwide scale. It Is also checking out a new air booking interface integrating ATPCO’s Next-Generation Storefront.