5 min read

Letter from AmTrav CEO Jeff Klee

Letter from AmTrav CEO Jeff Klee

This letter from AmTrav CEO Jeff Klee was sent to AmTrav customers.

Today we announced that AmTrav is being acquired by TravelPerk. If you haven’t heard of TravelPerk, read on and I’ll tell you more about them. Or you can read all about the deal right here.

For a relatively small group of people – myself, my co-Founder Craig, our AmTrav team and the TravelPerk team – this is really big news. We are all super excited about it.

But, for you, our customer, the understandable question is, “How is this going to affect me? How will it impact my travelers?” You’ve presumably got enough on your plate and you likely don’t have time for an unexpected change or disruption.

So I want to assure you that it will stay business as usual at AmTrav. We will continue operating as we always have. Despite having a new parent company, we’re keeping our brand name, we’re keeping our booking tool, and most importantly, we’re keeping our team. Part of what makes AmTrav unique is the expert Travel Advisors who are ready to help 24x7, the Relationship Managers who partner with you, and the developers building the AmTrav product. You will continue working with the same group. Not a single one of them is going anywhere!

You’re probably thinking, uh-oh, I’ve heard this before. Companies always say it’s going to be business-as-usual after a merger, that nothing’s going to change. But then wholesale changes come and usually it ends up sucking. (If I’m honest, that’s what I’d probably be thinking if I was reading this.)

So I’m going to tell you why that won’t be the case here and why this merger really is going to be great for our customers. Part of that story is how unique and awesome Travelperk is – and I’ll get to that – but first, if you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I want to go back to the beginning.

You may not know the history of AmTrav. Craig and I met at the University of Michigan – we lived in the same dorm – and the company was founded way back then in 1989. In the beginning, we were selling spring break trips to fellow students; later we got into consumer travel and eventually launched CheapAir.com and soon after AmTrav to serve business travelers.

Craig-Jeff Story page 2024

While many businesses today are founded with an exit strategy before they’ve generated even a dollar of revenue, our only goal in the beginning was to get a free spring break trip before soon heading on to law school (me) or medical school (Craig). But then we both fell in love with the travel business and when the internet came along, suddenly there was an opportunity to combine travel with something else we loved (technology) and by that point we were hooked.

In 35 years, we have had lots of opportunities to pursue a sale of the company – there have been 2 crazy financial bubbles where investors and others were paying crazy valuations for tech-forward companies like ours. But we had no interest because we loved (love) what we do and didn’t see the need to mess with a good thing.

When Travelperk first approached us in October of 2021, we didn’t feel any urgency to sell. But we have been mindful that the world is changing. I’ve said publicly many times that I think the number of companies who provide travel management services and travel management software (we do both, as you know) is going to dramatically shrink in the next 5 years. The only companies that will be able to compete are ones who (1) own their own tech stack; (2) have the wherewithal to build and optimize bespoke connections to dozens of airlines, hotels, and other suppliers; and (3) have the scale to secure the best inventory and rates from suppliers across the globe, and deliver a great experience to travelers regardless of their geography or preferred currency. Prior to our merger, we already had #1 covered, we were ahead of most of the industry with #2, but, importantly, we didn’t yet have a clear path to #3.

Travelperk is one of a very small number of business travel providers (I can count them on one hand) who, like AmTrav, owns its own tech stack and is committed to using modern technology to fundamentally improve the experience for travelers and companies. They are based in Barcelona but have 8 employee hubs across Europe and North America. They’re growing rapidly. They share our belief that a great solution has to be a combination of both software and service – what their Founder & CEO Avi often refers to as a “seven star experience.”  In TravelPerk we found a kindred spirit with a very similar mission, culture, and thirst for innovation. Ultimately, though, it was the TravelPerk people – their passion, energy, creativity, and decency – from Avi on down, that won us over.

Now part of TravelPerk, AmTrav will be able to deliver to you:

  • New products. TravelPerk is an innovator with products like the FlexiPerk refundable fare option that customers use to get refunds on otherwise nonrefundable fares, plus airline and rail options with European providers. We’re looking forward to adding FlexiPerk and those additional airline and rail offerings to AmTrav so you have even more options.
  • Even more innovation. The small-but-mighty AmTrav development team has built many industry firsts throughout the years. But we’ve been limited to how many projects we can take on at once. By leveraging TravelPerk resources and expertise, we’ll shorten some development cycles, have fewer wheels to reinvent, and ultimately deliver even more innovative features and products.
  • Greater purchasing power. Increasingly in this industry, the more supplier volume you can aggregate, the better inventory deals you can unlock. This will particularly benefit AmTrav customers who use international suppliers who AmTrav doesn’t have much volume with.
  • Global reach. Historically AmTrav hasn’t been able to serve companies with large international operations who want to pay in multiple currencies. Because we’ve joined TravelPerk we’ll soon be able to support with an integrated solution organizations who have travelers in the U.K. and across Europe (with more geographies to come) – we can’t wait!

Speaking of the U.K., this isn’t TravelPerk’s first acquisition. In 2021 TravelPerk acquired U.K. corporate travel provider Click Travel. The pre-merger Click in the U.K. was very similar to the pre-merger AmTrav in the U.S. Three years later, the Click brand, software and team are still serving their customers, the same way AmTrav will, demonstrating TravelPerk’s thoughtful approach to bringing on new companies.

As for Craig and I, we’re not going anywhere, we’re committed to AmTrav for years to come. From a personal point of view, this deal will give me the opportunity to focus exclusively on what I’m most passionate about – the product – without some of the HR, finance, and legal distractions that have sometimes consumed me as CEO. I am not remotely ready to retire (I hate golf) and I would never have done this deal if I couldn’t see myself working for Travelperk for a very long time. At some point, I suspect, they’re going to have to drag me out to pasture.

This is a great day for AmTrav and our customers. As part of Travelperk, we will be able to keep doing what we’ve been doing for you – only do it even better. There are still too many parts of business travel that are too hard and too cumbersome. We’re trying to transform an industry and, with our new colleagues at TravelPerk, we’ll accelerate that effort.

Some of you have been customers of ours since the very beginning. But whether you’re a longtime customer or one that just came on board: keep challenging us. Keep holding our feet to the fire. Keep sending good feedback and ideas. Keep doing what you always do, and we’ll do the same. This isn’t the end of our story, it’s the end of a chapter. We are so grateful for your support!

Best,

Jeff