Traveling for business isn’t always the most enjoyable experience.
If you don’t work for a large company — one that has its own travel agent — you’re often stuck booking your own travel on short notice, and don’t get the benefit of volume discounts with hotel chains and airlines that you would if you worked for, say, a Fortune 100 company.
And if your company doesn’t have a huge travel and expense budget, trying to save your company cash can be a stressful experience and — ultimately — sap much of the fun from visiting a new city.
However, a new travel startup is looking to change all of that by saving you money when you book, so you can turn your business travel into an adventure.
Launched in January, Upside is a new travel service from the founders of Priceline that looks to bring the convenience Priceline offers vacationers to the world of business travel.
“Jay Walker — the founder of Priceline — and I built Priceline into a 75 billion dollar business over 15 years ago based on solving a problem for leisure travelers,” Scott Case, Upside’s president, told GrindTV. “And like much of the travel industry, we became intrigued by business travelers. About a year-and-a-half ago, Jay was traveling and he realized, there was really nothing in place to give small business travelers leverage.”
Case said that, while Priceline offers vacationers services like the “name your own price” tool, there was nothing akin to that kind of convenience in business travel.
“We were in a place where the impetus for Upside is what makes us different,” the 46-year-old Case said. “We had access to enormous amounts of data processed in near real-time — we’re talking terrabytes in seconds — and we just had to find a way to translate that to customer service in a fun and fast way in a mobile platform.”
The solution Case and Walker settled on was simple: Focus on bundling hotels and flights while presenting travelers with multiple combinations of bundles to save more cash.
“One of the challenges that business travelers have is that they’ll buy flights and hotel independently of each other,” Case told GrindTV. “One of the best ways to lower costs is to buy flights and hotels together. So you can tell us the hotels you want to stay in, and we’ll show you a package that both lowers the price and — most importantly — gives you a reward.”
The rewards that Case mentions come in the form of gift cards to a slew of major businesses and services like Airbnb, Amazon, Ebay, Uber and Under Armour that you accrue money towards when you book with Upside. And if you’re willing to have flexibility in your travel plans, Upside will show you packages that saves your company on your flights and lodging while increasing your rewards.
“So a typical booking with us will involve a company saving between 10-15 percent on travel, and you personally getting a gift card between $100-$200,” Case told GrindTV. “We can also give it to you as credit which you can save up, so that theoretically you could save $1,000 and turn it into an awesome Airbnb for three days after the sales conference in the city you’re visiting finishes.”
“There’s a term for that in travel today — for merging business and leisure — we call it ‘bleisure’ and that’s what we want to specialize in,” Case continued. “It’s you saying, ‘Well I need to be in this city Monday through Thursday, but I want to extend my trip three or four days to actually enjoy the town.’ We’ll show you a package to stay in that actually makes that less expensive for your company and puts some cash in your pocket to spend.”
Case says that while Upside has only just launched within the past month, the company is already approaching a million users and that he only expects it to continue to grow. And as it grows, Case says the rewards it offers users will only get better.
“One of the things we’ll be adding soon is the ability to accumulate your gift cards and use them to book new travel on Upside,” said Case. “So theoretically, you could rack up three business trips and then decide you want to take a weekend trip to Cancun, and it won’t cost you anything.”