Phocuswright Europe 2024: TravelPerk CEO discusses future of business travel with AI and personalisation

Phocuswright Europe 2024: TravelPerk CEO discusses future of business travel with AI and personalisation

It discussed the evolving landscape of corporate travel

The centre stage of Phocuswright Europe was bustling with top executives from the travel and technology industry last week.

Avi Meir, co-founder and CEO of TravelPerk was part of the line-up which saw a sit down interview with Phocuswire's senior reporter Linda Fox.

It shed light on the evolving landscape of corporate travel. Meir highlighted a strong recovery, particularly in Western Europe and America, with companies prioritizing team building and travel alongside the rise of the hybrid work model.

"Business travel today is already normal, stable, especially in Western Europe and America," said Meir.

"Traveling for work – everything that we do – lots of budgets from office usage have been going towards team building and traveling."

The discussion turned to industry trends, with consolidation emerging as a major theme. 

"Consolidation is a big theme," acknowledged Meir. "We are the only product-based solution for the largest segment of the market, so the pressure we have is execution – building the right product, going in the right direction strategically."

While acknowledging the inertia some smaller companies might have towards new technologies, Meir emphasised the vast potential within the business travel sector.  "Business travel is a bit lagging to other industries," he said. 

"I see it as a positive. We can look at what other industries are doing, we don't have to guess a lot. Look at retail and banking – completely modernized and we can do that too."

The interview delved into the complexities of business models, particularly surrounding trip planning and post-booking services. 

Fox highlighted the "complexity of providing post-booking service, from the outside it looks easy, but it's difficult" when it comes to trip planning.

TravelPerk's approach to personalisation through AI was a key focus. Fox quizzed Meir on the stat that "80% of the workforce is only travelling 1-2 per year" so is personalisation really possible.

Meir rebutted: "You can personalise for a type of traveler, rather than an individual, across different companies, can do this with AI, in an anonymous way you can understand who I am and what I prefer."

AI is a cornerstone of TravelPerk's success, as Meir explained: "We're implementing this tech everywhere – not just a chatbot (a simple trick to get PR). 

"We went deeper, e.g., dealing with flight cancellations from airlines. This wasn't automatable before, done manually by humans. Not a very elevating job... this is now done by AI. 

"Train the model on your own data, the tech knows how to cope with changes by the airline. Our margin is 75% thanks to this technology (post booking)."

Looking ahead, Meir acknowledged there's a long runway for growth. He added: "Many gaps, just the beginning, been ten years,but we probably built half a percent of what we could build if we had infinite time and capital."