New Technology Helps TMCs and Corporations Slash Airline and Lodging Costs

by Barbara Peterson

Travel management companies (TMCs) can realize significant savings for major corporate accounts by using a new monitoring tool that effectively outsmarts the GDS and beats even negotiated rates.  

Yapta keeps an eye on air fares and hotel rates even after booking, and pings the agency whenever prices go down. Its software sifts through millions of fares to find bargains, so TMCs can instantly rebook air or hotel reservations, without the traveler’s ever even being aware of the change.  

Seattle-based Yapta introduced Fare IQ, which tracks air fares, three years ago. It followed in 2014 with Room IQ, which does the same with hotel reservations.  

James Filsinger, Yapta’s CEO, said the company’s corporate clients, including Shell Oil, GAP, Eli Lily, Merck, and Macy's, have realized combined savings of more than $21 million on air fare alone—an average of $369 per trip. 

 “Basically, if the fare drops enough beyond the change fee, it can be reticketed,” he said, whether it was booked directly by the client or by a travel management company (TMC).    

Yapta only makes money if the customer sees savings, from which it takes a percentage.  The savings always outweigh the costs of doing the work it takes to ferret them out, Filsinger said.   

Yapta’s customers include large travel agencies, such as Travizon, Ultramar, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.? They are essential to the success of Yapta, in fact, because they’re the ones actually doing the re-booking on behalf of their clients. Yapta simply identifies the savings and alerts the TMC.   

One trend that has helped entrants like Yapta is that discounts being offered to corporate customers are less generous than they used to be, and “travel contracts don’t yield the level of savings they used to,” said Anita Salvatore, Travizon’s executive vice president of global account services.  

More than 50 Travizon clients have signed on for Fare IQ, with a smaller number also choosing to add the Room IQ option. Salvatore said her agency has realized an average savings of about 3% on its $8 million gross air spend using Yapta.  

“The beauty of Yapta is that you book through one of the sanctioned channels,” she said, either a corporate online booking tool or an agent assigned to the account. Once a ticket is issued, the Yapta service pings the agency if a lower fare is found.   

The majority of these changes occur during the void window—typically 24 hours—so there’s no change fee involved, Salvatore said. “So when we find the lower fare we just automatically change it, and it keeps everything else intact—flight number, seat assignment, and so on.” 

While some corporate clients may resist changing their procedures to use more technology, Travizon’s Silicon Valley and other tech clients seem more willing to embrace innovations like Yapta. And it’s not surprising that other startup ventures are getting into the act. Dallas-based TripBam,  for example, focuses exclusively on the hotel segment; it differs from Yapta in that it creates “clusters” of properties surrounding the client’s booked hotel, and then continues to search rates in that whole cluster right up to the day of arrival.  TripBam CEO Steve Reynolds, at a recent presentation at a Phocuswright forum, said the company has signed a number of major TMCs as customers.  

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