Brisbane-based travel agency Flight Centre (ASX: FLT) is raising its forward-thinking profile on the world stage today after securing a 25 per cent interest in US technology-driven business The Upside Travel.
The investment makes Flight Centre the largest single shareholder in the Washington DC-headquartered group that was launched by Priceline founder Jay Walker in 2017.
The announcement comes just weeks after Flight Centre took a 10 per cent shareholding in Bangkok-based 30SecondsToFly and lifted its share in award-winning mobile app Sam :] from 25 per cent to 100 per cent.
The Australian company says the move will fast-track and future-proof its growth in the small to medium-sized (SME) corporate sector, gaining access to Upside's travel technology platform and software development resources.
"Upside is an emerging corporate travel business with an innovative customer offering that has the potential to disrupt traditional offerings in the SME sector in the future," says Flight Centre's managing director and founder Graham Turner.
Both companies have also entered a commercial deal covering cooperation on various distribution initiatives, and Turner is upbeat about offering customers the benefits of a new blended online and offline service.
"This offering will be deployed in the Americas in the near term and has been earmarked for release in the UK in the medium-term," he says.
FLT's president for the Americas, Dean Smith, says Upside's technology will be used to continue digital enablement for the company's Corporate Traveller brand, pairing the proficiency of Flight Centre's people with cutting edge artificial intelligence and machine learning models.
"We have been impressed by the capability and flexibility of Upside's technology and team to improve the business traveller experience," says Smith.
"Its use of machine learning models to dynamically price business travel packages in real-time to save clients money while increasing traveller options is just one example of Upside's best in class technology.
On the flipside, Upside will gain access to Flight Centre's supplier relationships and global reach, allowing it to expand its inventory and enhance ongoing software development with a broader set of travel data inputs.
"FLT is the perfect partner for Upside as we get aggressive in serving small corporate clients," says founder Jay Walker.
"Not only does FLT's global scale, content and experience immediately make our product more complete and more credible, but FLT's people and expertise also make us smarter, which is key as we accelerate into the future."
Following the investment, Flight Centre's FCM Travel Solutions now has its technology and innovation hub Labs in Washington DC, Boston, Barcelona, Bangkok and Brisbane.
Flight Centre's corporate businesses notched $4.2 billion in total transaction value (TTV) during the first half of FY19, representing around 37 per cent of its global TTV for the period.Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
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