Travelport in April finally enabled travel agencies connected to its global distribution systems to sell Delta's Economy Comfort seats, 10 months after announcing a deal to do so. But even after all that work, the process is "a bit clunky," acknowledged Travelport CEO Gordon Wilson. He told The Beat on Wednesday that when the latest version of the company's Smartpoint desktop app goes into production later this month, it'll fix the issue.
"We have a whole new capability for Delta and its Economy Comfort seating product, which is way better than our current product," he said. That advancement, along with other new fare and shopping features, should help Smartpoint gain traction, especially in Delta's home market. "Over two-thirds of our agents are on new desktop applications and the area where we are a bit lagging at the moment is the United States," Wilson admitted. "This latest development with Smartpoint will demonstrate the real value and power of the application."
Wilson explained that Smartpoint 3.0 also will have a graphical mapping feature depicting flight connections through different cities and "a much tighter and improved map shopping capability for hotels." Particularly beneficial for corporate travel agencies, the app also will address the tedium of dealing with fare changes. "They deal with a lot of changes to itineraries and spend a lot of time paging through the screens to see what the rules are in terms of fare changes," Wilson said. "We have made it much easier to get quickly to that piece of the rules on a graphical basis. That'll speed up the whole process for them."
Another new feature will be eNett, Travelport's payments business venture furnishing virtual credit card payments between agencies and suppliers, which will be embedded into the desktop point-of-sale system as a form of payment. Wilson said that primarily would benefit Travelport's travel agency subscribers, but he noted potential eNett use among corporate buyers. "We are in very sophisticated dialogue with a number of corporations on how they can get better and indeed perfect data matching between expensed and booked," he said, adding such developments are likely next year.
ENett's third-quarter growth amounted to a 178 percent year-over-year increase in gross dollars settled. It's an important component to Travelport's strategy to diversify revenue streams and represents one-third of the company's growth in RevPas, a key Travelport metric derived by dividing transaction processing revenue by the number of reported GDS segments.
The company's growing hotel activities account for another one-third of RevPas growth, as does airline merchandizing, according to Wilson. RevPas during the third quarter increased year over year for a 10th consecutive quarter, improving by 4 percent to $5.51.
"Our beyond-air business, which includes hotels, advertising, payments through eNett and a variety of products and services provided to travel agencies has grown by 19 percent in quarter three on a year-over-year basis," Wilson told analysts on a Wednesday conference call to discuss financial performance. "This element of our business now accounts for 18 percent of total Travelport, up from 14 percent only two years ago."
All those non-air activities during the quarter helped Travelport achieve 5 percent growth in net revenue (to $511 million) and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (to $128 million).
Wilson said such growth came "despite only marginal transactional volume or segment growth in the period of just over 1 percent year over year."