Canada-based agency automation provider MagnaTech this week claimed that about 200 agencies use its mobile trip recovery app, which has been downloaded nearly 2,000 times since January. Called SafeToGo, the product was private-labeled as Travel Leaders Corporate's Beacon app, which launched last month for iOS, later than originally planned. Beacon and SafeToGo also have Android and BlackBerry versions.
Travel Leaders executives had been reluctant to name their mobile provider. In Apple's App Store, Beacon and SafeToGo are described exactly the same way. Designed "for use by business travelers whose trips are arranged by a travel management company, or travel agency," the apps display complete itineraries and draw from a "complex monitoring system" that checks various sources for "security threats, extreme weather, flight cancellations or delays, and so on. If the system detects conditions that can affect your travel plans, it connects with the travel agent and changes are made while you're in transit. Problems are often fixed before you're aware of them."
Asked how Beacon differs from the standard SafeToGo offering, MagnaTech co-owner and president Jacques Thibault said Beacon was "highly personalized" to Travel Leaders Corporate. "As for the engine behind it, the base is still the same. But Travel Leaders Corporate has requirements that are specific to their mode of serving the road warrior.
"We call that the guardian effect," Thibault continued. "The most basic example is, say the first flight is delayed and the traveler will miss the second. You can react to calls, or you can see it happening and make the change for the traveler before wheels touch down. Then, bing, there's an update on the iPhone. Travel Leaders pushes that capacity to the ultimate."
Still, other agencies are looking at adopting "this mode of thinking, and they will take business away from those who don't," Thibault predicted.
Booking data comes from GDSs or agent-created passive segments, while FlightStats is among the providers of disruption information along with various government entities and other sources. SafeToGo also includes online check-in, destination maps, the ability to add appointments to itineraries and calendar synchronization. The app is part of a broader service that also includes email alerts plus client and TMC tracking dashboards and maps. Standard pricing is 30 cents per trip.
"The corporate travel arranger tends to have an issue with the plethora of apps and the million and one ways the traveler can spend money outside the program," said Thibault. "We see this as a way to provide a single vehicle to serve the traveler and hold on to policy compliance."
Thibault said the company so far has marketed the service mainly to such agency associations as Travel Leaders. Travelers typically are invited by travel management personnel to download the app and enter an encrypted, device-specific password.
Thibault is big on apps as opposed to mobile websites, even for the BlackBerry platform on which the variety of devices using apps can cause programming complications. "We want the interactivity to be full on," he said, "including where the person is, what they are doing and their needs at the time. We don't know everything about it yet, but I don't expect [new mobile website language] HTML5 will perform as well. It will be dependent on having Internet connectivity, and yet we can build a lot of local power that stays in the app. People don't want data roaming charges."
Agency users of SafeToGo enjoy branded communications, and logos in the app itself, but that's a step below the Beacon app's full branding.
MagnaTech also provides unused ticket tracking, document delivery, mid-office and quality control products.