Rather than leaving staff to their own devices when mixing work trips with long vacations, a travel agency should take control. The co-founder and CEO of Norwegian startup Travelin.ai thinks most corporate travel agencies have taken the wrong approach to helping customers deal with the complexities of globetrotting employees.
“A lot of companies talk about ‘bleisure’ but they can’t execute it,” said Roy Golden of Travelin.ai, which is part of the Amadeus for Startups program. “The leisure requirements of the business traveler are not met. They want to bring their partners, friends, children, extend their stay before or after, they want to mix the flights together.”
He argues companies are having a “tough time” working out the hybrid model of working, and are losing track of where everybody is, with tax complications the main headache. “They have to hire lawyers, accountants, and enter manually where (employees) have been. Then they get audited. It’s a mess,” he added.
However, it’s being addressed by the likes of Trip.Biz, with its new Mixed Payments tool, as well as TripActions with leisure booking tool Lemonade. But is it enough?
So What’s the Fix?
Amadeus has long had its eye on so-called bleisure trips, and its Amadeus for Startups division helps entrepreneurs by giving them the right technologies to build their businesses. “With the rebirth of business trips, ‘bleisure’ travel is once again gaining traction,” said Paul de Villiers, senior vice president, global business travel accounts at Amadeus.
It describes Travelin.ai as a “unique, next generation corporate travel management platform which reflects the true way we live nowadays.”
To help take away some of the stress in organizing workcations, Travelin.ai’s platform has a couple of features that stand out. One is a feature called, unsurprisingly, Workcation, which lets an employer assign a personal travel budget to each employee as a bonus or a part of their compensation package. The budget can then be used by the employees at the checkout page.
And when it comes to these trip approvals, rather than a direct report signing it off — the taxman does. Golden said this way all the days spent in other locations are ticked off, and employees won’t end up overstaying their welcome in other countries, resulting in fines. “To minimize this risk for the businesses we collaborate with one of the big four accounting firms to carry out a risk analysis before the workations are booked,” Golden said. “Based on the risk analysis results, we execute the booking approval process.”
The founder also thinks platforms like Lemonade, as well as Travelperk, aren’t hitting the mark when it comes to offering workcations.
“We look at how the market works, and then we build a solution backwards,” he said. “Others build a solution, and ask customers to work in their way. We work the opposite way. In the hybrid world, the one we’re living in now, it’s the same person. We say to clients, you live the way you want to live your life, it’s our responsibility to build the tech to accommodate that, not the other way round.”
However TripActions’ Lemonade platform, which was launched in 2020 as an employee perk, averaged 22 percent monthly growth in the first quarter of this year.
“With a heightened focus on wellness in the wake of the Great Resignation and Great Reshuffle, personal travel-as-a-perk has garnered increased interest for companies looking for consumer-grade solutions to differentiate themselves as potential employers,” said Nina Herold, head of travel, executive vice president.
Since the pandemic the travel agency has also seen a marked shift in business trips that contain a weekend. Since 2019, 31 percent of business trips included a weekend, but now that share has grown to 38 percent, the company said.
It’s also been offering rewards for a while, if employees can lower business travel costs via a “price to beat” feature, with those rewards able to be redeemed for personal travel and business travel upgrades.
Travelin.ai’s Golden will be presenting at Amadeus’ upcoming Travel Tech Night in Berlin on June 14, alongside Tilla, a shipping crew travel platform, which will showcase its journey as a travel‐tech startup and share the challenges it encountered on the way. “We believe their story might inspire newcomers to the travel industry,” said an Amadeus spokesperson.
And Riskline, which belongs to the Amadeus Partner Network, will also present. “Riskline is a clear example of a successful collaboration between Amadeus and the startup ecosystem,” the spokesperson added.
While Travelin.ai already has several clients, including PSA Consulting and Norwegian artificial intelligence software company Kindly, and funding from Innovation Norway and TRK Group, part of the founder’s presentation will likely include a pitch to other investors, including Amadeus Launchpad, Amadeus Ventures and Microsoft for Startups, who will also be speaking.
The European Union is getting closer to enforcing companies to spell out exactly what remote work means.
It’s partly due to the European Union’s Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive, which was released in 2019 but is fast approaching its Aug. 2 “transposition deadline.” By this date, each member state will have to pass legislation implementing its terms.
Europe is still an uneven playing field, according to law firm Fisher Phillips.
Sweden has already established a new remote working model, while Italy has adopted the directive by implementing protective measures for employees with “occasional collaboration” and “coordinated continuous collaboration” contracts.
Poland addressed the issue of remote work by mandating that the rules of remote work be set out in an agreement between the employer and employee at the outset of the employment relationship, the law firm said.
“European Union member states are using the (directive) to reevaluate and reform their exiting employment policies,” it wrote in a blog post. “Certain of them have already established new workplace policies in line with the requirements of the directive, while others have gone beyond the minimum standards.”
One of the minimum standards relates to “predictability regarding employment terms,” giving employees complete information regarding their place of work, among other aspects.
The European Union has already been debating remote work — including its less attractive side. Ben Marks, CEO and founder of the #WorkAnywhere campaign, helped facilitate those roundtables and said he hoped member states will go beyond the minimum standards set by the Predictable Working Conditions Directive.
“True remote work — that means remote work not under duress or during a pandemic — has the power to transform our society for the better,” he said. “It can help to combat the cost-of-living crisis and it may be the key to retaining more women in the workplace. It’s time to capture the benefits of remote work for everyone while safeguarding the health and wellbeing of workers.”
Once more countries set in stone legal requirements to set the place of work, remote or otherwise, there may be less debate around who exactly needs to return their office, and more confidence in booking, which is something the wider travel industry would welcome right now.
Marks’ campaign will soon release the findings from a major study on remote work environments, conducted with Selina and researchers from the University of Boston, potentially in time for the European Union’s directive deadline.
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