One year after repositioning itself as a tool for corporate
travel management - a pivot from its initial launch in 2016 as a consumer app -
Lola.com is moving deeper into that space through a new five-year, two-way exclusive partnership with
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).
Lola.com says it expects to generate at least $1 billion in travel sales from the partnership.
The deal gives the company instant exposure to GBT’s worldwide
client base, which it says books more than $45 billion in business travel each year through its more than
16,000 employees in 140 countries.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Lola.com CEO Mike Volpe calls it a “very meaningful, revenue-driving, customer-acquisition targeted relationship.”
“From our own direct sales and marketing effort and through
this partnership with GBT, we see a very clear path to getting to 10,000
customers … to become a very, very large player in the industry.”
Volpe says Lola.com already has “hundreds of businesses
using us today for travel,” and this partnership will now give those existing
customers access to special air and hotel pricing and features from GBT.
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For GBT, the addition of Lola.com’s simplified, self-service
travel management tools give it the ability to attract a new type of client.
“I keep saying that we need, sooner or later, to get some
products in the market which are delivering to the traveler like a B2C product,”
says Philippe Chérèque, president of GBT.
“Business travel has not been investing enough … to deliver
solutions that travelers are looking for. Travel management companies are
proposing too heavy solutions for this market segment. What I call the slightly
managed market - these products … are too complicated, too sophisticated, too
Chérèque says he is
optimistic that the Lola.com offering can meet the needs of this segment of
business travelers, thus reducing leakage.
“When you look at the team of Paul English and his team,
they have people who have been working in this kind of B2C industry,” he says.
“We hope it will compliment very well and get back the
travelers who have the tendency to go to the B2C side to go to an integrated
I keep saying that we need, sooner or later, to get some products in the market which are delivering to the traveler like a B2C product.
Philippe Chérèque - GBT
GBT says it is less a measurement of a client’s size and
more one of scope and complexity of travel needs that defines the new audience
this Lola.com partnership allows them to reach.
“It’s an expansion into that lower end of the middle market
segment,” says Evan Konwiser, vice president, digital traveler at GBT.
“We have identified clients that we have already on the
books in that space where we think this will be a really exciting alternative
solution, but frankly it’s really mostly about expansion for us.”
Initially Lola.com will offer reporting on employee travel spending
including average hotel rates length of stay and airfares, one-click expense
integration, travel policy and duty of care management, plus round-the-clock
support from travel specialists, all via desktop, mobile app and phone.
Chérèque sites this omnichannel capability,
combining both technology and human expertise, as one of the key strengths of
Lola.com. He says the platform’s simple, fast onboarding process is also an
“Today, as a TMC, when you get a small operation to be
interested to use your services … if they decide to work with you, the time you
need them to register, to load their data, to create their profile, to have
them starting to transact … we talk about days even maybe sometimes weeks,” Chérèque
“With these kinds of products that Lola is creating and we
are integrating, we are talking about hours. It’s a win-win. They can get the
benefit on their side very quickly and you don’t have to go through an endless
data integration, etc. to be able to make it work.”
For now, GBT will make the Lola.com program available to
companies based in the United States. It has a similar offering for companies
based in the United Kingdom, Business Travel Made Simple, although that is a
more managed program targeted to more complex travel needs.
I think the product that is faster and cleaner and easier to use is the one that will win in the market.
Paul English - Lola.com
There has been a lot of activity in the travel management
space of late, from other big players such as Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Concur and Egencia – which
targets the small to mid-market - and up-and-coming names like Travelperk and
TripActions (which nabbed $154 million last week).
But Lola.com co-founder and chief technology officer Paul
English - who made a name for himself as the co-founder and CTO of Kayak -still sees opportunities. What’s missing, he says, is a really outstanding,
consumer-oriented business travel product.
“I think the product that is faster and cleaner and easier
to use is the one that will win in the market. That’s what we are trying to do,”
“It’s about lightweight, really easy management for
different size organizations, really great modern tools for the traveler
themselves, backed up by really great proactive 24/7 service."
English says Lola.com has been evolving rapidly, based in
part on user feedback. By tapping into GBT’s much larger user base, English
says the partnership will enable Lola.com to accelerate product improvement.
“I think consumer and small business are more apt to try new
things, and if you are creating something new from scratch, their needs are not
as complex as a multi-thousand person company so it allows designers and
developers to really iterate rapidly on trying new things,” English says.
“I love working this segment because it allows innovation