Travel management provider Corporate Traveler, the division of Flight Centre Travel Group that focuses on small and midsize enterprises, has unveiled a new travel booking and management platform.
Dubbed Melon, the new system offers traveler-facing functions including a booking tool and trip management features, along with manager-targeted controls and duty-of-care and data analytics capabilities, all designed to be equally accessible via desktop and mobile, or a combination of those two channels, the TMC said.
Melon is available to Corporate Traveler clients based in the U.S. and Canada as of today and will expand to additional markets including the U.K., Australia and New Zealand in the coming months.
The platform has been in the works for more than a year, with development commencing amid the Covid-19-induced shutdown of corporate travel activity, according to Corporate Traveler. During that pause, the TMC said it took the opportunity to reassess its clients’ travel management needs and how best to serve those demands.
To help achieve that goal, Corporate Traveler leveraged the significant technology investments its parent company had made in recent years. Those plays include the acquisitions of booking technology specialist WhereTo and mobile chatbot platform Sam, along with an equity investment in air content aggregator TPConnects.
Each of those technology investments bear fruit in the form of Melon, which features a multi-source booking tool including air content from both global distribution system and New Distribution Capability sources, along with hotel content piped in via an existing Flight Centre partnership with HotelHub. Meanwhile, the system’s chat-based travel support capabilities include both chatbots and human agents.
Additional Melon features include artificial intelligence-driven search capability that takes into account both prior traveler behavior and preferences as well as admin-set rules and spending restrictions and a manager-facing dashboard displaying spending and KPI metrics. And with corporate duty-of-care responsibilities a key priorities as travel resumes post-Covid, Melon includes such health- and safety-related features as in-booking and post-booking alerts and advisories and a real-time traveler tracker for managers.
The travel booking and management servicing landscape for SMEs currently is in a state of flux. As some high-profile startups that had focused on that segment, including Upside Business Travel and Lola, recently have ceased operations in the wake of the sharp corporate travel downturn over the past 18 months, such deeper-pocketed established TMCs as American Express Global Business Travel have enhanced their focus on the SME market, considering the segment a ripe growth opportunity as travel resumes post-pandemic.
On the large corporate and enterprise side, Flight Centre’s FCM brand—which focuses on servicing that audience—is in the midst of a technology revamp of its own, earlier this summer rolling out a new proprietary travel tech platform in China ahead of a planned global tech platform overhaul set to go live later this year.