Business Travel Resumes, Though Not at Its Former Pace

Domestic travel has returned faster than international. And some destinations like Las Vegas are rebounding more quickly than big cities like New York.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #business-travel, #conventions-fairs-and-trade-shows, #coronavirus-return-to-office, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings

You Can Still Wear Masks in Meetings

Your boss may balk, but you should be able to keep your family healthy — and keep this customer happy.

#business-travel, #careers-and-professions, #content-type-service, #coronavirus-return-to-office, #gifts, #masks, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #work-life-balance, #workplace-environment, #your-feed-selfcare

Talking Points With … Who Else? The Points Guy

Brian Kelly has been helping travelers and other consumers navigate the increasingly complicated loyalty universe for over a decade. Here’s what he has to say about playing the points game.

#brian-kelly, #budget-travel, #business-travel, #credit-cards, #customer-loyalty-programs, #frequent-flier-programs, #the-points-guy-llc, #travel-and-vacations

As World Shuts Borders to Stop Omicron, Japan Offers a Cautionary Tale

Japan, which has been very cautious throughout the pandemic, is again barring all nonresident foreigners. There is an economic and human cost.

#business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #japan, #travel-and-vacations

What Your Flight History Reveals About Your Carbon Footprint

Google Flights now shows your carbon footprint. Will it change the way you buy plane tickets? 

#airlines-and-airplanes, #business-travel, #carbon-dioxide, #consumer-behavior, #google-inc, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jetblue-airways-corporation, #kayak-com, #mann-michael-e, #thanksgiving-day, #travel-and-vacations

New York City’s Economy Is Dealt a New Blow by the Delta Variant

The Delta variant has upended events, office reopenings and travel, raising new challenges for service businesses and their workers.

#business-travel, #conventions-fairs-and-trade-shows, #coronavirus-delta-variant, #coronavirus-reopenings, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #labor-and-jobs, #new-york-city, #small-business, #travel-and-vacations, #unemployment

TravelPerk buys UK-based Click Travel in latest pandemic purchase

Business trip booking platform TravelPerk has bagged another rival — picking up UK-based Click Travel. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed but we’re told it’s the third — and largest — acquisition for TravelPerk to date.

The Barcelona-based startup has been on a bit of a shopping spree since the pandemic crisis hit Europe last year, picking up risk management startup Albatross in summer 2020 to bolster resilience to COVID-19’s impacts, before going on to acquire US-based NexTravel in January to expand its presence in the US market.

The latest acquisition deepens TravelPerk’s UK and European business, adding Click Travel’s 2,000+ SME clients (which includes the likes of Five Guys, Red Bull and Talk Talk) to its customer base — which will total just over 5,000 post-acquisition.

The UK company handles some £300M in business travel for its client base, which will bolster TravelPerk’s revenues going forward. The latter now bills itself as the “leading” travel management platform for the SME market globally and the UK as a whole.

“We are a global travel management platform but our core markets are the US and Europe and we expect both markets to be our primary growth areas this year,” said CEO and co-founder Avi Meir. “At the current moment, the US is our largest market due to the covid restrictions in the EU & UK.”

“Assuming travel restrictions won’t be imposed again, we expect to grow by 200% in 2022 with strong growth in our core markets in the US & EU,” he added.

Click Travel, which is based in Birmingham, was founded all the way back in 1999 — and appears to have raised relatively little venture capital over the years, per Crunchbase. However, in 2018, the veteran player participated in the government-backed Future Fifty scale-up program — and also took in a “multi-million pound” investment from the UK-based Business Growth Fund.

Whether there will be any domestic hang-wringing over a high growth UK business being sold to a European rival remains to be seen.

In a statement on its sale to TravelPerk, CEO James McLean omitted to mention the pandemic’s impact on the travel sector — choosing instead to highlight what he couched as the pair’s shared “mission” to reduce the cost and complexity of business travel.

“Those shared objectives, combined with the natural cultural fit between our two companies, means we are incredibly excited to bring our teams together. Combining TravelPerk’s industry-leading knowledge, technology, experience and first class customer support with our own is a powerful proposition and we can’t wait to get started,” McLean added.

While Click Travel has focused on serving the UK market, TravelPerk has had a global focus from the start.

It has also attracted a large amount of external investment (totalling just under $300M) over its shorter run (founded in 2015).

Back in April, for example, it raised a $160M Series D round. It had also topped up its Series C round in July 2019 before the pandemic hit. So TravelPerk hasn’t been short of funds to ride out the COVID-19 revenue crunch — and as well as shopping for competitors it has also been able to avoid making any layoffs over the travel crisis. 

Per a press release, capital to fund the Click Travel acquisition was provided by Boston-based investment manager, The Baupost Group.

TravelPerk’s Meir remains bullish about the near-term prospects for growth in the business travel sector, despite ongoing concerns in Europe and the US about the more infectious ‘Delta’ variant of the virus which is contributing to surging rates of COVID-19 in some markets (including the UK) — claiming it’s already seeing green shoots of recovery in “key markets”.

“TravelPerk is outgrowing the market pace and is already at above 2019 revenue figures,” Meir told TechCrunch. “When it comes to the rest of the industry, the recovery of travel is well underway but moving at different speeds in different markets. For instance in the US, according to TSA Checkpoint figures, at the current rate of recovery the US travel market is expected to reach pre-pandemic volume at the end of August 2021.

“We anticipate the global market may take a little longer but are optimistic we will see close to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.”

“We’re one of the few players in the travel industry that continued scaling and growing since the beginning of the pandemic with a strategy that didn’t involve any layoffs,” he also told us. “Since March last year, our strategy has been not to sit back but to be aggressive and invest massively in our product offering and in our global reach, so that we are in the best position possible to capitalise when travel makes its full recovery. Today’s news is a major part of that plan.

“We will aim to continue being aggressive in our growth strategy and we are open to more acquisitions if they make strategic sense and are aligned with our vision and culture.”

Per Meir, Click Travel and TravelPerk will initially continue to run as two independent platforms but he confirmed that an “eventual full integration” is planned — with both set to operate under the TravelPerk brand in time.

The startup also says it will retain all Click Travel’s staff — denying it has plans to axe any jobs. It also intends to hold onto the company’s Birmingham base — having the city as another UK hub for its business (in addition to its existing London office).

“The 150 amazing people working for Click Travel were a big reason why we wanted to acquire the company, and were priced into the deal,” said Meir. “We have no plans of redundancies. We rather aim to integrate the entire team into the TravelPerk Group.”

Asked if TravelPerk might consider expanding its focus to also target the enterprise segment, he noted that it’s seen interest from larger businesses — and said he’s “open” to the idea — but for now Meir said TravelPerk remains fully focused on the SME market: “where we think there is the biggest need, and the biggest growth potential”.

“That’s why this acquisition is so exciting for us; it makes us undoubtedly the leading travel management platform for SMEs globally,” he added.

Flexibility and sustainability

Discussing how the pandemic has changed business travel, Meir highlighted two “important trends” he said TravelPerk will continue to invest it: Namely flexibility for bookings; and sustainability so environmental impact can be reduced.

TravelPerk plans to invest more than $100M in two key products in these areas (aka: FlexiPerk and GreenPerk), per Meir.

“We’ve noticed on our platform that travellers are booking closer to their departure date: Before the pandemic, trip searches were usually conducted between 7 and 30 days prior to the selected departure date,” he said, elaborating on the importance of flexibility for the sector. “Now we are seeing most trip searches are for trips less than 6 days away. Flexibility is therefore one of the most in-demand perks in business travel. Travellers will rely on flexible fares to give them the peace of mind that they won’t lose money if they need to change or cancel a trip on short notice.”

On sustainability, Meir said businesses are already looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and general environmental impact, while consumers are also wanting to make conscientious decisions to reduce carbon emission — suggesting that train-based travel is set to gain ground (vs flights) as a result. (That might, ultimately, require some creative retooling of TravelPerk’s logo — which prominently features an airplane icon… )

“We expect to see significant interest in our carbon offsetting product, GreenPerk, as a result but we also expect to see changes in how people are choosing to travel,” he said.

“For instance, rail is undoubtedly the more environmentally-friendly travel option. In fact, taking a train over a domestic flight can reduce an individual’s carbon emissions by about 84%. We have been building out our rail inventory for a number of years now and we expect train travel to be an increasingly popular business travel option for customers this year and next.”

As for the changing mix of business-related travel in a pandemic-reconfigured world of remote work, Meir continues to argue that more businesses providing employees with remote working options will sum to more business travel overall.

“This might be bad news for the daily commute but it will result in more business travel,” he suggested. “Whether they are going fully remote and ‘working from anywhere’, or operating on a hybrid model, distributed teams will need (and want) to come together. We believe there will be a new type of business trip — one where team members will travel from different working hubs to get together for teambuilding and brainstorming sessions, for meetings with clients and colleagues, and even for ‘bleisure’ (business and leisure) trips.”

#avi-meir, #barcelona, #business-travel, #europe, #european-union, #exit, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #nextravel, #saas, #startups, #sustainability, #travel-industry, #travelperk, #united-kingdom

When It Comes to Taxes, Being Tracked Can Be a Good Thing

With remote work more common now, tax apps that track your location have become relevant for professionals who want to work wherever they want to live.

#business-travel, #income-tax, #mobile-applications, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #taxation, #telecommuting

TravelPerk raises $160M in equity and debt after a year of derailed business trips

The pandemic has hammered the travel sector over the past 12 months so you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit of pre-COVID-19 déjà vu at this news: Business trip booking platform TravelPerk is announcing a $160M Series D.

The round, which is a mix of equity and debt funding, is led by London-based growth equity firm Greyhound Capital. Existing investors also participated (specifically: DST, Kinnevik, Target Global, Felix Capital, Spark Capital, Heartcore, LocalGlobe and Amplo).

No valuation is being disclosed, nor is the split between equity and debt. So it’s a bit more of a convoluted ‘vote of confidence’ vs TravelPerk’s pre-pandemic raises — as you’d expect given the locked down year we’ve all had.

The Series D means the 2015-founded Barcelona-based startup has pulled in a total of $294M to-date for its user-friendly retooling of business trip booking geared toward ‘global SMEs’, following a top-up of $60M (in 2019) to its 2018 $44M Series C — which itself fast-followed a $21M Series B that same year.

TravelPerk’s approach is akin to a consumerization play for the (non-enterprise end of) business trip booking, combining what it bills as “the world’s largest bookable travel inventory” — letting users compare, book and invoice trains, cars, flights, hotels and apartments from a range of providers including Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia, Booking.com, and Airbnb — with tools for businesses to manage and report trips.

There’s the obligatory freemium tier for the smallest teams. It also offers 24/7 traveler support, a flexible booking option and an open API for custom integrations.

There was no funding announcement for TravelPerk in 2020, as investors took a break from the pandemic-struck sector. But earlier this year it told TechCrunch it had been starting to see interest picking up again, as of fall 2020. The closing of a Series D now — albeit debt and equity — suggests VCs are getting over the worst of their travel wobbles.

(Another sign on that front is the $155M Series E raise for U.S.-based TripActions, which closed in January on a $5BN valuation, as U.S. corporate travel lifted off from 2020’s lows.)

TravelPerk’s PR talks bullishly about momentum and using the funds to accelerate ‘global growth’, even as the coronavirus continues to hit parts of Europe and the U.S. — its two main markets — despite what are relatively advanced vaccination rollouts (especially the US) vs other parts of the world.

At the time of writing, COVID-19 is taking a particularly heavy toll on India, where the health system looks to be careening out of control in the face of a massive wave of infections. Parts of Latin America are also struggling. A third of the way through 2021 the pandemic looks far from done. And that makes for a still uncertain outlook for business travel over the coming months.

The typical pre-pandemic business trip is now a Zoom call, while former conference calls may have morphed into emails or group chatter in Slack. And there’s no immediate reason for that to change, given remote-working professionals have had a year to adjust to a richer mix of digital comms tools.

In 2021 it’s hard to imagine an overwhelming return for business travel — not least as plenty of offices remain shuttered. The contagion risk vs hard-to-quantify in-person networking rewards associated with non-essential business trips will surely see work trips remaining a hard sell for a lot of companies.

Still, TravelPerk and its investors are willing to bet that work trips will rebound — in time.

The plan is to be ready to meet what it expects will be a far more ‘moveable feast’ of business travel demand in the future.

“Travel is definitely coming back,” says CEO and co-founder, Avi Meir. “We can see that already with the numbers. In the US for instance, we can see a 70-75% recovery in domestic flights compared to the baseline before COVID-19.

“In Europe it’s a little less certain right now, as vaccine rollout isn’t as fast, but you can look to other parts of the world and with some degree of certainty predict what the European recovery will eventually look like by looking at those examples.”

“We expect the overall global recovery in travel to be uneven over the next year, with different countries reopening at different times, meaning constantly changing guidelines and restrictions,” he goes on. “We’ll continue living in a stage of uncertainty probably for the next 12 months or longer.

“We’ve realised from speaking to our customers that the demand for travel is there, people are eager to do these trips, but this period of uncertainty makes it difficult for them so we’re focused on finding solutions that can address that.”

TravelPerk didn’t sit on its hands last year as global business travel cratered. Instead, it focused on investing in product development, making bets on how it needs to tool up for the new climate of increased uncertainty — including by taking a number of steps toward making its business more resilient to the ravages of COVID-19.

Last October it launched an API — saying it wanted to help the wider travel industry access up to date info on coronavirus restrictions. It also picked up a risk management startup, called Albatross, back in July, to feed its own resilience efforts.

Another more recent acquisition was geared toward scaling its business in the U.S. — where domestic travel looks to be recovering faster than Europe. In January it announced it was buying YC-backed rival NexTravel — gaining a base in Chicago.

At the same time, it inked a partnership with Southwest Airlines to plug a key gap in its U.S. offering.

Meir avoids breaking out any revenue growth projections for the U.S. or Europe for this year or next, when we ask, which suggests he’s preparing for lean growth in the short term.

What he does say is that investors were impressed TravelPerk managed to grow its customer base 2x in 2020 (it now has 3,000+ businesses using its platform, including a bunch of familiar startup names) — and that it avoided making layoffs (when other travel businesses swung the axe).

“Last year we doubled the size of our customer-base and we now have over 3,000 businesses using the platform, including the likes of Wise, Farfetch, GetYourGuide and Monzo. The travel budget under management also increased by almost 100% over the last 12 months,” he tells TechCrunch.

“The reason we had such interest from investors with this round is because we had, given the context, a really good 2020. We doubled our customer base, avoided making layoffs, and most importantly we were there for our customers when they needed us, constantly investing in the product to enable safe travel during Covid.”

The thesis TravelPerk is now working to is that “flexibility, safety and sustainability” will be more important than ever for business travellers, per Meir.

“Flexibility, because travel still has a lot of friction due to the different restrictions and travel lockdowns mean that a trip could be cancelled at really short notice,” says Meir. “Safety, so that every traveler knows not only what specific health requirements are in place at their destination, but also that they will get updates in real time if anything changes. Sustainability, because in this period businesses have been taking stock and realising that we all have to do more in terms of our environmental impact — and of course travel is a big part of this.”

“We have worked hard to respond quickly to these requirements,” he continues. “We updated our product and product roadmap to better match these new needs. Our flexible booking tool FlexiPerk [which TravelPerk happened to launch pre-pandemic, in summer 2019] guarantees refunds on cancelled trips at short notice; our risk-management API TravelSafe keeps travellers updated in real time on local health guidelines and restrictions; and GreenPerk, our sustainability tool, directly reduces carbon emissions through initiatives run by our partner Atmosfair.”

Sustainability and business travel aren’t a natural pairing, however. Certainly not for air travel — where environmental groups accuse carbon offsetting schemes of boiling down to ‘greenwashing’ when what’s really needed to achieve a reduction in CO2e emissions is for people to take fewer flights.

TravelPerk launched its GreenPerk offsetting scheme in February 2020, letting customers pay a fee per carbon tonne to cover its guesstimate of the total emissions toll their trip will generate. But it’s only been applied to 10% of its business volume so far.

With 90% not even being offset, you hardly need to be Greta Thunberg to call that the opposite of ‘sustainable’.

Still, Meir says he expects the offset percentage to “grow rapidly”. “We intend to use this funding to develop GreenPerk even further,” he says, adding: “We want to be the standard bearer for the industry in terms of sustainable business travel.”

However when asked whether TravelPerk might seek to advance sustainability by supporting digital replacement itself (such as by being able to offer its users videoconferencing as an alternative to flying) he declines to comment, saying: “We don’t have anything to share yet on how we’ll advance that goal [sustainability] right now, but we’re working on some exciting ideas!”

Coming up with creative ways to reduce the need for business travel certainly doesn’t feature in TravelPerk’s near term vision.

Meir predicts a “full comeback” for business travel — arguing that “the meetings that matter happen in person” — while conceding that the travel industry will nonetheless be very different. (Hence its goal of “building the products for that [more flexible] future”.)

“We expect to double down on growth in the U.S. and Europe and that includes making key hires across all roles, especially in our hubs in Chicago, London, and Barcelona,” he says, adding that it expects the team to grow “rapidly” in the next 12-24 months (without putting any numbers on the planned hires).

TravelPerk will also continue to eye acquisition targets, per Meir. “Following our first two acquisitions, of Albatross and NexTravel, this funding round will also help us to continue being aggressive in our growth strategy. We aim to complete more acquisitions this year,” he says on that. 

“Whilst many other providers have been in hibernation over the past year, we’ve been aggressive, continuing to update our product and growing our customer base, and we think that gives us a great foundation for growth in 2021 and beyond,” he adds.

Commenting on the Series D in a statement, Pogos Saiadian, investor at Greyhound Capital, said: “There is no doubt that from 2021 onwards the average business trip will look very different to how it did in 2019. We are confident that business travel will recover and thrive in the years ahead. We also believe that people will, more than ever before, need a platform like TravelPerk that has deep inventory, excellent ‘seven-star’ customer service, provides a great traveler experience and integrates with the broader tech-stack.

“We believe that this is a huge long-term opportunity, and as customers ourselves, we see first-hand the tremendous value that TravelPerk provides across organizations, from finance to admin and the travellers themselves. The fact the company is beating growth expectations already for this year further supports our belief that TravelPerk is a true market leader, and we are delighted to be supporting the next stage of the company’s growth with this investment.”

 

#air-travel, #airbnb, #api, #avi-meir, #barcelona, #booking-com, #business-travel, #chicago, #europe, #expedia, #farfetch, #fundings-exits, #getyourguide, #greyhound-capital, #kayak, #nextravel, #saas, #skyscanner, #tc, #travel-industry, #travelperk, #united-states, #video-conferencing

The Pandemic and the Future City

Lessons from Alexander Hamilton and the book trade.

#business-travel, #commuting, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #e-books-and-readers, #quarantine-life-and-culture

Do You Really Need to Fly?

Videoconferencing is good enough to replace a lot of pointless business travel.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #business-travel, #fuel-efficiency, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #travel-and-vacations, #videophones-and-videoconferencing

Airlines Still Don’t Know When Passengers Will Return

Experts say that tourists could come back in the spring or summer but that more profitable business travelers could stay away for a year or longer.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #airlines-for-america, #alaska-airlines, #american-airlines, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #delta-air-lines-inc, #jetblue-airways-corporation, #southwest-airlines-company, #travel-and-vacations, #united-airlines

2021 Travel Guide: Covid Restrictions, Vaccine, Flight Cancellations, Cruises and More

As 2020 ends, and with vaccination against the coronavirus ramping up, would-be travelers wonder what they can expect in the coming year, and beyond. Here’s what we know.

#business-travel, #content-type-service, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #customer-loyalty-programs, #travel-agencies-and-agents, #travel-and-vacations, #vaccination-and-immunization

Stocks Post Worst Day in 4 Months as Infections Rise Around the Globe

The S&P 500 was down 3.5 percent after France and Germany announced new lockdown measures, an unwelcome reminder of the recovery’s fragility.

#boeing-company, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #delta-air-lines-inc, #government-bonds, #mastercard-inc, #sap-ag, #stimulus-economic, #stocks-and-bonds, #travel-and-vacations, #united-airlines, #united-states-economy, #visa-inc

Sizing Up the Rural-Urban Travel Divide: Who’s Up and Who’s Down

Remote U.S. destinations, where social distancing is easier, are generally faring better than cities, which are trying hard to get a bigger share of the leisure crowd.

#business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #denver-colo, #florida-panhandle, #las-vegas-nev, #new-york-city, #rural-areas, #states-us, #travel-and-vacations, #urban-areas

TravelPerk launches an open API platform to extend its work trip SaaS

Business travel SaaS startup, TravelPerk, has launched an open API-based platform — letting its customers and partners build custom integration and apps.

The initial APIs covers HR and expense management use-cases but more are set to be added as usage and demand grows.

“Applications we’ve seen being built on the platform already include HR functionality (think BambooHR), expense management systems, company payment cards, financial reporting, and ERP,” says co-founder and CEO Avi Meir, discussing the launch.

Longer term he says the hope is the platform generates “a huge range” of additional functionality for customers to draw on.

“Many of our customers are tech companies full of developers, so we’re confident that if we give them the tools it will be boundless what they can create,” he adds. “In fact, we’re working with one customer already who is using our API to build a custom approvals process because they need a more complex system than the standard offering.”

TravelPerk has been running a private beta over the last few months with 20+ partners and customers but is now flipping the switch to open it to all users.

“We are providing a fully fledged toolkit for developers, from the most curated developer hub and API documentation, to a sandbox environment to test their solutions for quality assurance,” adds Ross McNairn, TravelPerk’s chief product officer, in a statement.

“We do not see TravelPerk as a silo tool, but rather one that needs to coexist with hundreds of other SaaS tools. Our ultimate goal is for partners and developers to consider TravelPerk as the platform to build and grow with us. Easy to understand, easy to build, and easy to grow.”

Business downtime resulting from the coronavirus pandemic slashing global travel has given TravelPerk a window of opportunity to focus on product dev.

“It’s no surprise that the [business travel]  market isn’t yet back to normal but we know that if we keep investing in creating the products businesses need to travel confidently we’ll emerge from this stronger,” says Meir, who notes that it’s been seeing signs of a recovery in some of its markets — with domestic segment usage in Germany and the US having returned to “pre-pandemic levels”.

Returning to the API, Meir says customer demand was a factor in the decision to augment its business travel SaaS with a free and fully open API platform: “Part of the reason we’ve brought this in was the huge demand for this kind of product from many of our customers, particularly SMEs. On the back of that demand, we’re expecting to see tens or hundreds of applications and customer integrations built in the coming months.”

The other driver is cultural, per Meir — who says the startup has a “philosophy of being open, collaborative and innovative” which he claims sets it apart from the “current, closed systems” offered by legacy travel industry players.

“Creating this marketplace means we can provide customers with a wide choice of expert-created functionality, rather than forcing a single proprietary solution on them,” he adds.

#api-platform, #apps, #business-travel, #developer, #europe, #saas, #travelperk

Facebook launches a climate change information center and commits to eliminating ‘scope 3’ emissions by 2030

Even as Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, admits that climate change “is real” and that “the science is unambiguous and the need to act grows more urgent by the day” the platform appears unwilling to take steps to really stand up to the climate change denialism that circulates on its platform. 

The company is set to achieve net zero carbon emissions and be supported fully by renewable energy in its own operations this year.

But as the corporate world slaps a fresh coat of green paint on its business practices, Facebook is looking to get out in front with the launch of a Climate Science Information Center to “connect people with science-based information”.

The company is announcing a new information center, designed after its COVID-19 pandemic response. The center is designed to connect people to factual and up-to-date climate information, according to the company. So far, Facebook says that over 2 billion people have been directed to resources from health authorities with its COVID-19 response.

The company said that it will use The Climate Science Information Center to feature facts, figures, and data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their global network of climate science partners, including the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and others. This center is launching in France, Germany, the UK and the US to start. 

While Facebook has been relatively diligent in taking down COVID-19 misinformation that circulates on the platform, removing 7 million posts and labeling another 98 million more for distributing coronavirus misinformation, the company has been accused of being far more sanguine when it comes to climate change propaganda and pseudoscience.

A July article from The New York Times revealed how climate change deniers use the editorial label to skirt Facebook’s policies around climate disinformation. In September 2019 a group called the CO2 Coalition managed to overturn a fact-check that would have labeled a post as misinformation by appealing to Facebook’s often criticized stance on providing and amplifying different opinions. By calling an editorial that contained blatant misinformation on climate science an editorial, the group was able to avoid the types of labels that would have redirected a Facebook user to information from recognized scientific organizations.  

Facebook disputes that characterization. “If it’s labeled an opinion piece, it’s subject to fact checking,” said Chris Cox, the chief product officer at Facebook.

“We look at the stuff that starts to go viral. There’s not a part of our policies that says anything about opinion pieces being exempted at all.”

With much of the Western coast of the United States now on fire, the issues are no longer academic. “We are taking important steps to reduce our emissions and arm our global community with science-based information to make informed decisions and tools to take action, and we hope they demonstrate that Facebook is committed to playing its part and helping to inspire real action in our community,” the company said in a statement.

Beyond its own operations, the company is also pushing to reduce operational greenhouse gases in its secondary supply chain by 75 percent and intends to reach net zero emissions for its value chain — including suppliers and employee commuting and business travel — by 2030, the company said. Facebook did not disclose how much money it would be investing to support that initiative.

#articles, #business-travel, #chris-cox, #climate-change, #facebook, #france, #germany, #national-oceanic-and-atmospheric-administration, #renewable-energy, #social-media, #tc, #the-new-york-times, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Best Guess on When Business Travel Will Recover? It Could be Years

Until companies are sure they can protect workers’ health, one analyst said, “they won’t want to take the responsibility and risk of sending them back on the road.”

#airlines-and-airplanes, #airlines-reporting-corp, #airports, #american-express-company, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #enterprise-holdings-inc, #hilton-worldwide-holdings-inc, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #rti-international, #shutdowns-institutional

EasyJet says 9 million travel records taken in data breach

EasyJet, the U.K.’s largest airline, said hackers have accessed the travel details of 9 million customers.

The budget airline said 2,200 customers also had their credit card details accessed in the data breach, but passport records were not accessed, a company statement said.

EasyJet did not say when the security incident happened or how the hackers accessed its systems, but the company said it referred the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the U.K.’s data protection agency. Companies are given 72 hours to inform regulators of a security incident under European data protection rules.

Spokespeople for EasyJet did not immediately comment when contacted by TechCrunch.

The airline, like the rest of the aviation industry, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced vast swathes of the global population to stay at home, and put business travel and vacations on hold. Prior to the pandemic, EasyJet carried more than 28 million passengers in 2019.

The company was one of the first to ask the U.K. government for a bailout to prevent financial collapse.

British Airways was fined a record £183 million ($230m) by the ICO in 2019 after a data breach exposed the booking details of 500,000 customers. Hackers had siphoned off thousands of credit card numbers after installing skimming malware on its website.

#airline, #airlines, #business-travel, #data-breach, #data-security, #information-commissioners-office, #no-frills, #security, #security-breaches, #united-kingdom

Why is Eugene Kaspersky funding a travel accelerator during COVID-19?

Eugene Kaspersky made a name for himself in cybersecurity as CEO of Kaspersky Labs, but the Russian security expert has a new passion project: he’s funding an online accelerator that aims to support entrepreneurs who are building travel and tourism startups.

Businesses that apply must have a focus on Russia, though the accelerator is open to startups based anywhere. There are four categories of focus: travel tech, infrastructure, social impact and sustainability. Kaspersky isn’t taking equity in selected teams, which means founders who get into the program will benefit from free support.

Ten startups will be selected for a two-week online bootcamp, with a virtual demo day planned for June 25. The deadline for applications is May 29, 2020.

We spoke to Kaspersky about setting up the program and why he’s so keen to support a sector that’s being hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TechCrunch: What is Kaspersky Exploring Russia? Explain the key details of how the program will work and what sort of support will be offered to selected entrepreneurs/startups?

Eugene Kaspersky: The program is a tourism accelerator targeting young travel startups. We decided to help the tourism industry as an industry that has been hit so severely by the pandemic. I think now is the time to… turn life’s lemons into lemonade by using this self-isolation period for personal development and improvement of business projects. We’ll be accepting applications from different industry streams — tech startups, projects that make extreme and leisure tourism more accessible, business projects that are socially significant in the travel and tourism fields and projects that have a positive impact on sustainable development. We’ll choose the 10 most interesting and promising projects to enter the online educational program with lectures, one-to-one coaching sessions and presentations from industry experts. At the end of the program, we‘ll chose three finalists on the demo day, where all 10 participants will be able to pitch their startups to the jury.

You’ve made your name in cybersecurity. Some people may wonder why you’re investing your own resource in travel/tourism startups when many types of businesses are facing huge challenges as a result of the pandemic — so what’s your personal interest in the sector? And what made you choose an accelerator as your way to help?

#brian-chesky, #business-travel, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #eugene-kaspersky, #europe, #extra-crunch, #kaspersky-labs, #leisure-travel, #market-analysis, #russia, #startups, #sustainable-tourism, #travel-industry, #travel-startups, #verified-experts, #y-combinator

The Airline Business Is Terrible. It Will Probably Get Even Worse.

An industry that is intimately familiar with failure confronts a crisis unlike any other. Executives say they have no idea when passengers will return.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #american-airlines, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-2020, #delta-air-lines-inc, #labor-and-jobs, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #southwest-airlines-company, #travel-and-vacations, #united-airlines, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government

Business Travel Has Stopped. No One Knows When It Will Come Back.

But one thing is certain: It will be changed. Airports, airlines and hotels will be taking new precautions, experts predict. And conferences will eventually return.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #airports, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #delta-air-lines-inc, #deutsche-lufthansa-ag, #global-business-travel-assn, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #videophones-and-videoconferencing

Now Arriving at La Guardia Airport: One Passenger

New York’s three major airports are operating at about 5% of their normal traffic, with terminals that are eerily silent.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #airports, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cotton-rick, #delta-air-lines-inc, #kennedy-international-airport-queens-ny, #laguardia-airport-queens-ny, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #new-york-metropolitan-area, #newark-liberty-international-airport-nj, #port-authority-of-new-york-and-new-jersey, #shopping-and-retail, #stations-and-terminals-passenger, #transportation-security-administration, #travel-and-vacations, #united-airlines

Coronavirus in N.Y.C.: Major Airports Are Eerily Silent

New York’s three major airports are operating at about 5% of their normal traffic, with terminals that are eerily silent.

#airlines-and-airplanes, #airports, #business-travel, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cotton-rick, #delta-air-lines-inc, #kennedy-international-airport-queens-ny, #laguardia-airport-queens-ny, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #new-york-metropolitan-area, #newark-liberty-international-airport-nj, #port-authority-of-new-york-and-new-jersey, #shopping-and-retail, #stations-and-terminals-passenger, #transportation-security-administration, #travel-and-vacations, #united-airlines

TripActions reportedly lays off hundreds amid COVID-19 travel freeze

The coronavirus demand crunch has taken another bite: Palo Alto-based corporate travel-focused unicorn, TripActions, reportedly laid off hundreds of staff yesterday.

Per this post on Blind — written by someone with a verified TripActions email address — the company fired 350 people. Business Insider reported the same figure yesterday. While the Wall Street Journal said the layoffs amount to between one-quarter to one-fifth of the startup’s total staff, citing a person familiar with the situation.

In an email to CrunchBase News TripActions confirmed it has axed jobs in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis — saying it has “cut back on all non-essential spend”. Although it did not confirm exactly how many employees it has fired.

“[We] made the very difficult decision to reduce our global workforce in line with the current climate,” TripActions wrote in the statement. “We look forward to when the strength of the global economy and business travel inevitably return and we can hire back our colleagues to rejoin us in our mission to make business travel effortless for our customers and users.”

“This global health crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes, and our hearts go out to everyone impacted around the world, including our own customers, partners, suppliers and employees,” it added. “The coronavirus has had [a] wide-reaching effect on the global economy. Every business has been impacted including TripActions. While we were fortunate to have recently raised funding and secured debt financing, we are taking appropriate steps in our business to ensure we are here for our customers and their travelers long into the future.”

Per the post on Blind, TripActions is providing one week of severance to sacked staff and medical cover until end of month. “With [the coronavirus pandemic] going on you think they would do better,” the OP wrote. The layoffs were made by Zoom call, they also said.

We’ve reached out to TripActions for comment.

Travel startups are facing an unprecedented nuclear winter as demand has fallen off a cliff globally — with little prospect of a substantial change to the freeze on most business travel in the coming months as rates of COVID-19 infections continue to grow exponentially outside China.

However TripActions is one of the highest valued and best financed of such startups — securing a $500M credit facility for a new corporate product only last month, when we noted Crunchbase had more than $480M in tracked equity funding for the company, including a $250M Series D TripActions raised in June from investors including a16z, Group 11, Lightspeed and Zeev Ventures.

Ahead of making the layoffs the company had already paused all hiring, per one former technical sourcer for the company writing on LinkedIn.

#business-travel, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #enterprise, #layoff, #layoffs, #lightspeed, #palo-alto, #startups, #transportation, #travel-startups, #tripactions, #zeev-ventures