Q&A with Chief Travel Officer Danny Finkel
We’re delighted to share that Danny Finkel has been promoted to the role of chief travel officer, where he will lead global strategy for the travel management company (TMC) side of the TripActions business, managing supply and demand to provide value and support our customers. He will work to ensure that TripActions delivers the best shopping and booking experience for travelers, while also overseeing all of TripActions’ supplier content strategy, relationships, and operations across air, lodging, car and rail to give users continued unrivaled inventory choice.
Prior to TripActions, Danny led global air strategy for Expedia and lodging strategy for Egencia. Danny brings a passion for travel and technology, along with 14 years of customer-focused experience, to his new role. We sat down with Danny to learn more about him, his love of travel, and his new role at TripActions.
TripActions: How did you first hear about TripActions?
Danny: In 2018 I saw a TripActions speaker on a panel at a conference, and was interested in learning more. I’d been with Expedia for a number of years, but I’d never heard of TripActions. I looked Ariel Cohen up on LinkedIn, and learned that he went to the Kellogg School of Management, which is where I went to business school. I reached out to him, just to make a professional connection. One thing led to another, and I found myself working at TripActions as Vice President of Booking Experience and Supplier Strategy. At my time here at TripActions I’ve supported the overall disruption that TripActions is bringing to the travel industry on behalf of travelers so they can focus on where they are going, not the process of getting there.
In support of this, we aim to take a different approach for supply and creating a global agency. Instead of thinking about supplier relations as merely dividing a pie of resources, we take the approach of looking to grow value and be true partners in a win-win-win equation for suppliers, travelers and companies. That's how I built my career, working with partners, working with supply, working with the industry to come up with the best traveler-centric solutions. This new role is a natural fit for me, as is being part of TripActions mission-driven company and culture.
TA: What do you plan to focus on as chief travel officer?
Danny: TripActions combines three core components. First, we are an amazing tech platform as an OBT (Online Booking Tool). We’re also an amazing payments and expense platform. And third, we are a TMC (Travel Management Company). My role is making sure that we continue to be the best TMC, and that we meet our clients’ needs from a service perspective, from a global inventory and core services perspective, and from a point-of-sale perspective -- doing all of it in true TripActions form by challenging the status quo and constantly raising the bar to deliver the best experience for our customers, partners and travelers.
Another focus will be to further expand our travel supply footprint, continuing to ensure that we have the best breadth and depth of content, including access to all the rates for a given room, for example. Essentially, we want to expand on what we’re already doing to deliver that unrivaled inventory choice for business travelers.
We want to ensure we’re exceeding our clients’ expectations, which requires a robust global presence--by going to market making sure that we can meet the needs of our global customers and travelers, wherever they may be. My team will also continue to work with our product team to make sure that we have the best shopping and booking experience for all travel verticals--air, lodging, car and rail.
Finally, there are many operational components to travel that are very necessary to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations around fulfillment. Things like the back office and the mid office, and making sure that we have all the data flowing and connections optimized between us and our suppliers. We are ensuring it’s functioning properly while also thinking about ways that we can modernize and revolutionize it with technology to create efficiencies and automation that haven't been possible before--for example, launching the ability for companies to track and automatically use unused tickets, which alleviates a major sore point for many travel managers.
TA: What are the opportunities you see in business travel today?
Danny: One is consolidation. For many enterprises, travel managers are using many disparate systems to manage their T&E programs. By using that many systems, they miss out on the efficiency of automation, as well as data integrity and the ability to scale and effect change within their organizations really quickly. Bringing those systems and solutions into one platform will enable travel managers and companies to meet their needs for efficiency, cost savings, and duty of care while simplifying policy and program management.
It’s also going to be important to create travel experiences that employees like and want to use. Travel is a big part of life for many employees, myself included. For a long time across the industry, the traveler experience was an afterthought. In the past, decisions were based on cost and efficiency. While those things continue to be important to the business, it’s also important to have an experience that people want to use, that people feel happy about because it’s making their lives easier. There is going to be a continued focus on the experience of everything from shopping through booking to safety and well being throughout the trip.
Lastly, we see personalization as a really big opportunity. In the past very little personalization was built into travel programs, and travel in general--especially legacy solutions. TripActions has worked to leverage machine learning and AI to create personalized platforms, and we’re seeing that spread throughout the industry. Things like direct connections with our suppliers enable further personalization at the offer level. It’s about making sure travelers are seeing the types of inventory they want to see, at the point of time that they want to see them. Traditional legacy technical connectivity hasn't allowed that to happen, but now we have NDC and direct connections that are allowing for that personalization to take place in a way that has never been done before. I'm really excited to see what we can continue to do in that space.
TA: How has TripActions grown and evolved since you first joined in January 2019?
Danny: It has been amazing. We’ve grown significantly over the past 18 months with new customers and the volume of travel we manage. We've delivered product after product, technology after technology, and innovation after innovation in rapid succession like I've never seen before. I've worked at fast-moving tech companies before, but the sheer volume of customer-focused enhancements in my time here has been amazing.
What I’ve seen is an increasing focus on growing as part of the travel ecosystem, which means fostering relationships and innovation in all parts of our marketplace. When it comes to partnerships, we work to fulfill the promise of creating value and of moving the industry forward. We are building processes and finding the right balance between fast-paced growth and scale.
We’ve done a great job with that, along with developing our ability to react to changing market dynamics. Because we have a strong startup mentality, even at a thousand-person company, we can pivot on a dime. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and exciting all at the same time. We've proven it, even as we’ve launched TripActions Liquid™ which supports payments and expensing beyond travel.
TA: What do you enjoy about travel?
Danny: Every. Single. Part. Of. It. During the past few months when travel has been restricted, I even contemplated driving to the airport and sitting in a garage just to feel the buzz of being at an airport. I love seeing people going to different locations. I love experiencing different cultures, whether it be food or activities or different ways of life. I love the diversity of interactions that travel brings. Travel is the most important piece of everyone's lives, whether it's for business reasons or personal, you have the most memorable experiences on your trips. In my career in travel, including at TripActions, I love being part of making somebody's life a little bit different. A little bit better. I love bringing the world closer together. That's one of the really beautiful parts of being in travel.
TA: Favorite destination?
Danny: If we're talking about food, I love Japan. If we're talking beaches, I love Hawaii. If we're talking about city, I love Sydney. If we're talking about culture, I love Spain and Italy. The world is multifaceted, so it's so hard to find just one that is a favorite. In fact, for my honeymoon, we went on an around-the-world trip because I couldn't pick one.
TA: Window or aisle?
TA: Best book or other pastime for a long flight?
Danny: When you’re traveling, it makes sense to dive into a great travel book. I have loved every single Bill Bryson book. He's a travel writer who brings destinations to life. I've been on a lot of flights to a location where I've been reading his books. It’s a fun thing to do before you get to where you're going.
TA: What haven’t we asked that you’d like our audience to know?
Danny: I’d like to add that I'm excited about the future of travel, and about what we're delivering on. We're actually delivering on our promise to change the industry. And we have such a focus on our users--for my role, that’s focusing on the supplier side, customers and travelers--but as a company we’re focused on all our users. We're changing the T&E experience through our products,e technology and innovations, down to the conversations we're having. I'm excited for this journey, and I'm really excited to see what’s coming next.
It’s great to learn more about you, Danny. Individuals interested in learning more about Danny can join the BTNGroup webinar on Aug. 18. Register here.