CTM Agrees To Buy Texas TMC Corporate Travel Planners
Australia-based Corporate Travel Management on Dec. 24 announced its intent to acquire Corporate Travel Planners, a Texas-based travel management company focused on higher education. “Similar to our experience in the government sector, the university sector travel activity tends to be resilient in economic downturns,” according to CTM.

CTM agreed to pay $18 million plus another $18 million contingent on achieving profit targets. CTP principal Christy Prescott will stay on.

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According to its website, CTP is a Travel Leaders Group affiliate serving more than 50 universities. It is a preferred partner of SAP Concur and also supports users of the Sabre GetThere online self-booking tool. For meetings management, CTP partners with Cvent and Groupize. It provides reporting through Cornerstone iBank.

While it may offer some reliability, travel management at universities can be challenging. Tenured professors often don't follow policy, and enforcement is scarce. Students and athletic teams have unique needs, and tapping into research grants and using state funds can be tricky.

Other players specializing in higher ed travel include Anthony Travel and Flight Centre's Campus Travel USA, as well as several predominantly corporate TMCs.

CTM has become a global player through both organic growth and acquisitions. As it grows in more geographies, the TMC joins others like Egencia, FCM Travel Solutions and Travel and Transport in presenting corporate buyers a multinational alternative to the big three of American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel and CWT.

CTM first entered the US market in 2012 when it bought R&A Travel (also known as Polk Majestic). In subsequent years it acquired Avia Travel, Diplomat Travel, Montrose Travel, Travelcorp, Travizon Travel and USTravel.

Coupa Acquires Reshopping Firm Yapta
Spend management company Coupa Software has bought Yapta, a provider of price assurance systems for corporate travel. Yapta's automation watches for hotel rates and airfares lower than what travelers already selected and helps execute rebookings when appropriate. On the hotel side, its chief competitor is Tripbam.

Coupa offers enterprise-level expense management, accounts payable, sourcing, procurement and e-invoicing systems. In 2015, it acquired TripScanner to manage employee travel bookings outside designated channels and capture associated data.

Yapta gives Coupa another post-booking tool as it delves deeper into travel technology. Yapta claims thousands of client companies, including more than 100 of the Fortune 500. It says the average savings from reshopping is 2 percent to 4 percent. It typically keeps a portion of client savings. Yapta also partners with dozens of travel management companies.

Coupa's interest validates reshopping as a value-add travel management tactic. Travel managers whose companies use third-party price assurance processes generally report positive outcomes, even at the most mature programs.

Coupa rival SAP Concur had been an investor in Yapta, and offered clients the reshopping tool through the Concur App Center.

Coupa and Yapta did not disclose terms of the all-cash acquisition. A “very rough estimate” from Evercore ISI equities analyst Peter Levine valued the deal at about $100 million.

IRS Slightly Reduces Standard (But Optional) Mileage Reimbursement
The Internal Revenue Service set the 2020 standard reimbursement rate for driving an automobile during business travel at 57.5 cents per mile. That's down a half cent from last year.

Companies can instead determine their own mileage reimbursement rates. In areas where gas prices are lower than average, for example, the standard rate may be too high. Sometimes employees may overstate miles traveled, perhaps inadvertently.

Some third parties help with these calculations. Boston-based Motus, which assists the IRS in determining the standard rate, claims GPS mileage tracking eliminates overpayments from self-reported calculations.

Motus in 2018 acquired Runzheimer International, which advises the IRS on mileage rates. Motus also supports SAP Concur's mobile app-based Drive mileage tracking and reimbursement service.

Troovo Gets Patent For Virtual Payment
The US Patent and Trademark Office in January granted Troovo a patent for a virtual payment process. Australia-based Troovo provides travel agency automation for various transaction processing and mid-office functions including ticketing and quality control.

Using API connectivity to bring in transactions from any booking source, the Troovo platform determines the appropriate payment method. It then sends any relevant payment instructions to the supplier and funnels the relevant data back to the bank, payment platform or card issuer.

For travelers on the road, Troovo’s white-label mobile app can show the employer’s or TMC’s branding, which helps suppliers – especially hotels – recognize the user.

The patent specifically covers "a travel payment intermediary system configured to analyze travel booking data and identify itinerary item transactions eligible for virtual credit card payments. For each of these itinerary item transactions the system and method can automatically trigger generation of an appropriate virtual credit card to affect payment."

Virtual payment is attractive to corporate travel operations because it reduces fraud, allows for precise spending controls, and offers a corporate payment option for recruits and other non-employee travelers. There are challenges with adoption, notably friction during check-in at hotel front desks when payment information may not be readily apparent. The industry continues to search for solutions that would make virtual payment seamless.Troovo works with payment specialists AirPlus International and Wex, as well as virtual payment solutions from American Express, Diners Club, eNett, Mastercard and Visa. It partnered with Serko to bring virtual payments to the Zeno booking tool. Last year Troovo integrated virtual payment processing with mobile appmaker mTrip. Altour was the first TMC to leverage that connection for its mobile app in 2019.

Flight Centre Travel Group is a Troovo customer, along with several midsize travel management companies in Australia and New Zealand.

Each month, journalists Jay Campbell and David Jonas from news and analysis site TheCompanyDime.com contribute to Business Travel Executive a compendium of the industry news that travel buyers and managers should be aware of, and what it means to them.