Travelogix Presents…Jack Dow

Travelogix Presents…Jack Dow

For edition No. 13 (unlucky for some, but not for our readers!), we have lined up a conversation with Jack Dow, Founder and CEO of the award-winning travel tech company, Grapevine.

During this interview, you’ll learn more about Grapevine’s inception and what prompted Jack to step into the business travel space. You’ll also hear Jack’s opinions on the importance of personalisation and AI’s sharp rise in usage within travel.

Having the opportunity to grab some time with Jack was a genuine pleasure. Please grab a coffee and enjoy our 13th edition of Travelogix Presents.

Hello, I’m Jack…

Grapevine, the intelligent remarketing travel-tech leader, was born out of frustration with dull travel content and off-the-mark travel recommendations.

Jack Dow tells us, “Grapevine initially started as a pain point that I was trying to solve.

“I would come back from Australia once or twice a year and could never find the inspiring travel content and recommendations that I had seen over the past year when it came to planning a trip.

“I initially built a B2C website that aggregated and indexed inspiring travel content by destination and category, but following interest from several businesses who liked the idea of being able to offer this content to their customers via the right time, right channel personalised recommendations, we pivoted to a B2B model in late 2019.”

Before this, however, Jack amassed lengthy experience in the world of real estate. Jack said, “I worked in real estate for 13 years, qualifying as a chartered surveyor in 2006, then moving to Australia in 2008 where I ended up running a transactions team for a large commercial real-estate fund, buying, and selling office towers and shopping centres.”

A far cry from where Jack finds himself today…

Grapevine: a lesson on bolstering hotel attachment rates and increasing personalisation.

Jack’s mission for Grapevine was simple: “Empower travel management companies (TMCs) to capture this ancillary revenue and maximise revenue per trip via a plug-and-play integration.”

Even from those early days in 2019, his conversations with TMCs were illuminating and posed a huge opportunity for the business travel community.

Jack said, “When we started speaking to TMCs in 2019, I was taken aback not only by how low attachment rates of hotels and other ancillaries were but also by how low a priority it seemed to be.

“From my experience in e-commerce, if you are not generating 25-30% of your revenue through remarketing, you are known to be leaving money on the table.”

Since those early discussions began, the business travel industry has responded well to Grapevine and what they’re delivering for TMCs around the globe. Winning the Business Travel News’ Innovation Face-off Award at the 2021 Business Travel Show has also enhanced their presence as serious travel tech players.

Jack tells us, The concept of capturing ancillary and in-destination spend is not new in travel, and with TMCs increasingly aware that increasing revenue per trip is essential to maintain a healthy balance sheet, our technology is generating a lot of excitement across the travel industry.”

This has been solidified in 2023 with multiple client wins around the globe. Jack said, “We’ve had a flurry of sales activity this year, so we’re very busy onboarding new customers, and proving out our plug-and-play integrations.”

Personalisation, innovation, and the expected industry trends

Travel, be it leisure or business, is a distinctly personal experience. From making a trip as slick and frictionless as possible to supplying recommendations to travellers to remove the element of loneliness and ‘travel fatigue’ – it’s becoming clear that corporates are placing personalisation high up on the agenda.

On the flip side, TMCs are also seeing an opportunity to deliver this bespoke need for personalisation, whilst increasing their attachment rates and driving a stream of revenue back into their agencies. So crucial after the pandemic of 2020, and 2021.

Jack tells us, “Personalisation impacts all stakeholders in business travel.

“During the GBTA event in 2022, the audience was shown a McKinsey Survey on what corporates were prioritising for business travel, and for 2023 – personalisation came second only to sustainability, with ‘digital concierge’ solutions following closely behind.

“Yes, Grapevine generates revenue for TMCs, but it is as much about client acquisition and retention and delivering value to the traveller who now expects a consumer-grade experience to keep them from booking elsewhere.”

For companies like Travelogix and indeed Grapevine, collaboration is vital. It is vital for the evolution of customer experiences and service.

Jack said, “I can’t stress the importance of collaboration in business travel enough. It is a complex landscape, and no single company is ever going to do it all, so the ability for businesses to a) support each other and b) integrate seamlessly, is essential for the continued innovation in our industry.

Knowing how much we value collaboration; this is a sentiment we couldn’t agree more with.

As we head further into 2023, we asked for Jack’s take on the challenges/opportunities that faced our industry.

Jack tells us, “Interestingly, I think they are linked.

“The biggest opportunities will come through the adoption of new technologies that optimise efficiencies, drive revenue, and deliver value to clients. The biggest challenges will come from businesses delaying this adoption due to ‘business as usual’.

“After a challenging couple of years, improving margins and responding to client expectations are essential so that we do not fall behind”.

We at Travelogix feel that data insights, data management and the stories one could tell with data, are absolutely critical to the TMCs that make up the business travel space. It’s important now, and will only grow in importance in the coming years. Heck – it will still be viewed as vital decades from now!

Jack tells us, “Historically, the priorities of TMCs, corporates, and their travelling employees, have often been at odds, primarily due to budget constraints.

“I believe that new data-driven insights will bring the stakeholders in travel together as corporates take a more holistic and dynamic view on travel budgets, to factor employee well-being, productivity and retention into travel policies.”

Data, and its uses, are vitally important across a range of categories and functions, not only for the TMC but for the corporate too.

Data is also needed for the further development of AI and machine learning – two critical advancements in tech that will undoubtedly be adopted across all global industries.

With the emergence of OpenAI’s Chat GPT, we have seen the exponential growth and development of AI across various industries, it is only now that we are seeing it deployed intelligently within the business travel space.

Journalist for the BTNe, Amon Cohen, has written a very interesting article on the real-world application for ChatGPT and how this technology could alter the business travel space.

For seven years or so, Navan, one of the biggest TMCs on the planet, utilised AI and machine learning to great effect, but their recent integration into the OpenAI and ChatGPT APIs, has turned things to 11 (Spinal Tap reference for those film buffs out there!)

While Jack clearly understands the AI landscape for a futuristic blade-runner-style version of our industry, he has some reservations, “the buzz is obviously all about ChatGPT at the moment, and it is certainly exciting, but I think we have a long way to go before it has a meaningful impact.

“All this technology requires data to be in great shape, so this needs to be a core TMC focus in the next couple of years.”

For independent TMCs, this could prove tricky to integrate into their systems and processes at a cost that’s relevant to their size, however, there are clear developments on the way and the application into smaller TMCs is simply a matter of time. Watch this space, world…

To end

Knowing Jack, we’re aware of his work ethic and desire to grow Grapevine within the business travel ecosystem.

The need for personalisation is on the up, and TMCs around the globe are looking for ways to increase their attachment rates while providing a truly unique and bespoke experience for travellers.

Aside from his dream of being better at Golf, I think he has certainly positioned Grapevine as the market leader in the world of remarketing and personalisation – what lies ahead for Jack and his team will be exciting to watch unfold.