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Simplifying Business Travel: T&E Comes Closer Together

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Skift Take

“T&E” makes it sound like travel booking and expense tracking are already integrated, but that’s far from the case. Some tech tools are trying to be at the forefront of this integration.

Few work tasks are as soul-crushing and time-consuming as the filing of expense reports. How many taxes and fees did your hotel room carry? How many receipt photos did you upload? It can waste employees’ time and introduce errors into payment and accounting systems.

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Now, all the big players in managed travel are moving to make the task simpler by combining the travel and expense (T&E) functions into one platform. 

Among those doing it: Amex GBT, BCD Travel, Navan, SAP Concur, CWT, and Direct Travel.

The latest example comes from Expensify, a subscription-based software service to track business spending. 

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The company introduced Expensify Travel last week, its first foray into the direct booking and management of flights, hotels, and car rentals on its own platform, powered by Spotnana. The platform allows administrators to establish rules around travel spending, like limits on room costs and fare types. Companies can manage their expenses directly in Expensify, instead of relying on multiple T&E platforms.

“It’s called T&E, travel and expense, and those are two things that people really want together, more so than expense and invoicing or something,” said Ryan Schaffer, Expensify’s CFO.

The new travel service “is the most commonly requested feature from our mid-market and enterprise customers,” Expensify’s founder and CEO David Barrett said in a letter to investors. 

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Nearly all of those who work in travel management – 96% – believe that travel and expensing should be integrated, yet barely more than one-third said their companies use a single integrated solution, according to a 2023 survey by American Express GBT of 1,200 employees involved with T&E issues.

“If there’s X and there’s Y and if these two can talk to each other and they’re deeply integrated, why not have the best expense and the best travel offering,” said Sarosh Waghmar, the founder and chief executive of Spotnana, which provides an array of cloud-based travel services.

Better Integration is a Goal

Navan, known as TripActions until February 2023, began expanding its expense offerings in mid-2020 as the company grappled with virtually zero revenue due to the pandemic, said Michael Sindicich, chief executive of Navan Expense. 

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Today, merged with Navan’s booking platform, Sindicich said 95% of individual transactions are “fully automated and expensed automatically because we know what’s on the calendar, who they’re with, what trip they’re on, if they’re on or off a trip, and we can apply policy on every single transaction ahead of time.”

Concur co-founder Steve Singh also has plans for expense-management as part of the April acquisition of Direct Travel. The new leadership aims to merge expense-tracking into its offerings with Center, an expense-management company co-founded by Singh’s son, Naveen, who is CEO. The new Direct Travel will incorporate Center, along with meeting management firm Troop and Spotnana’s digital booking tools to fix what Singh calls “a broken system” business travelers must navigate currently.

Amex GBT and American Express recently unveiled a new virtual card for small- and mid-sized companies, along with tighter integration with Amex GBT’s Neo1 expense-tracking platform. 

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Just as an expense-management company can introduce a booking capability, so can others in the business-travel ecosphere — including suppliers.

In November, Australia’s Qantas Group became the first airline to add a full online travel booking service, also via Spotnana, to sell hotels, cars, and its own air tickets. The service covers 480,000 companies enrolled in the Qantas Business Rewards program and includes employee spending reports and the ability to impose company policy on bookings. 

Qantas doesn’t yet sell flights on its oneworld Alliance peers such as American or Cathay Pacific, or other partners, but that could change.

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Waghmar, the Spotnana CEO, says to expect “a lot more announcements later this year” from travel suppliers that are seeking to sell better personalized content for businesses. 

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