As Travelport Ups Stake, Locomote Eyes Global Expansion

Travelport is priming Australia-based corporate travel management platform Locomote to expand into the United States and other regions. The global distribution system operator recently raised its stake to majority ownership, placed its CFO as chair of Locomote's board and granted one of its own as Locomote's incoming CEO.

Locomote co-founder Philip Weinman viewed Travelport as "a global player that could take us global." He said multinational expansion had always been the plan but Travelport's majority stake will accelerate it.

Locomote bills its offering as an "end-to-end," open platform that corporations can customize to fit their travel workflow, preferred tools and other requirements. Clients can tailor the functionality by hooking in applications from Locomote and from third-parties for travel requests and approvals, booking, policy management, traveler collaboration, expense and reporting.

"We've built an agnostic, open platform-designed product, somewhat similar to an Apple TV, where third party apps can come into the technology and we simply host them in our platform," said Weinman. "Some apps are free, some apps you pay for, the same as any of the other open platform."

Weinman noted integrations with Expensify and Serko and was open to integrations with other expense and booking providers, as per client demand.

Locomote offers its own booking engine, which "is actually a free app," said Weinman. "We believe booking engines are simply a gateway to fulfillment. Therefore, the brain is in the platform, not in the booking engine."

Some of Locomote's technology stems from the Travelport relationship, including its Universal Profiles, Universal Record, travel policy engine and Universal API for content.

Locomote also lets corporates house traveler profiles independently. "We believe that the profiles should rest within the corporate," said Weinman. "They need to own their own profiles. That's our fundamental philosophy. Now, that means that TMC has total access to it, so there's no real threat to TMC in the sense that they still get the profiles."

Locomote's client base is largely centered in Australia and New Zealand. As clients, the company lists banking firm ANZ, law firm Allen & Overy, health insurer Medibank and charitable organization World Vision.

"We wanted to build a really strong robust model in Australia that had a certain game plan on how we would go into the marketplace," said Weinman. "We built a prototype in Australia, so now all we're going to have to do is go from country to country with this prototype."

He claimed the system's "open architecture" should ease global expansion.

Weinman said clients would lead Locomote's positioning in the United States. Already, he said, some multinational clients are bringing the technology to the United States. "We're in global accounts so we're just going into this stage," said Weinman. He referenced one multinational client "installing in our first site [in the United States]" as soon as next month.

Travelport raised its stake in Locomote from 49 percent to 55 percent in early October, the company disclosed during its earnings report last month. That was a little more than a year after it announced the initial stake.

With its majority stake, Travelport seated CFO Philip Emery as chairman of the Locomote board (Emery also chairs eNett, another Travelport investment), while Weinman has transitioned to vice chairman. This month, Locomote named Travelport group vice president for global accounts and corporate sales Sandra McLeod as CEO, effective in January.

McLeod's departure prompted some rearrangement among Travelport executives.

Wilson praised Locomote's technology last year, viewing it as a basis for Travelport's next-generation corporate booking offering but, like Weinman, stressed it is "more than a corporate booking tool."

In an interview last month, Travelport CEO Gordon Wilson said: "It's a small business, but it is strategic to us. It's important we develop the next-generation corporate booking and travel management experience. Locomote's progressing well. It's doing what we wanted it to do when we invested in them in the first place and getting some traction in its markets of Australia and New Zealand."

In a statement, Wilson noted that Travelport's deeper ties to Locomote, including Emery's spot on the board, "will create greater connectivity between Locomote and our other digital assets, such as mobile travel commerce provider MTT and our B2B payments company, eNett."

Meanwhile, regarding the remaining 45 percent stake held by the company's founders, Wilson said: "We've got various options. One step at a time."