A little over a year ago, Denise Heffron retired from Transat.
Her retirement was short-lived, however, as in June 2018, Heffron was dabbling in the travel industry once more, preparing for the launch of Uplift in Canada as the company's executive director.
But who is this company and what does it offer exactly?
Launched in 2017 by a team of passionate travel industry veterans led by CEO Brian Barth, Uplift is a Silicon Valley fintech company that offers travellers the ability to book now and pay over time. Uplift has changed the way consumers shop, book, pay and experience travel.
Purpose-built for travel, Uplift works exclusively through industry partners by integrating a monthly payment option seamlessly into their booking flows. The business also offers a custom-tailored solution for travel agents and call centres, ensuring access for off-line transactions.
This innovative technology helps drive significant increases in conversion rates and transaction values for partners while making travel more affordable, accessible and rewarding for consumers.
In the United States, Uplift has partnered with major industry players such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Universal Studios, American Airlines Vacations, Southwest Vacations, Spirit Airlines and others.
No Canadian partnership has been announced as of yet, but Heffron anticipates that it won't be long. Uplift hopes that its technology will be available this spring in Canada.
The travel suppliers and agencies that will become its partners will be announced in the coming weeks, according to Heffron.
Travel now, pay later
Uplift's user-friendly website advertises that customers can apply for funding quickly and with ease, even without leaving the website of their travel supplier: they simply select the Monthly Payment option on the website of the said partner.
On their website, Uplift declares:
"By splitting the cost of your trip into affordable monthly payments, your travel dreams will not have to wait. Make the trip you deserve: enhance your travel experience with a hotel room upgrade, a spacious airplane seat, attraction tickets, and more."
One testimony from a satisfied customer in Pennsylvania adds:
"We had a dream vacation that we did not think we could afford."
Uplift says its innovative travel financing solution has already been well-received across the board. The proof is in the results: already, more than 50 million kilometres in 105 countries and 300,000 holiday memories have been calculated from travellers using Uplift.
How it works
Uplift has provided the following examples to show travel advisors how it works.
Let's say that a weekend in Las Vegas costs $707 CAN ($278 flight + $342 hotel + $87 rental car). This getaway could be accessed in 12 monthly payments of $63 through taking advantage of the services Uplift provides.
It will be noted that this amounts to $ 56.36. This example is based on an annual borrowing rate (APR) of 15 per cent. However, the APR determined by Uplift can range anywhere from seven per cent to 31.99 percent depending on the traveller's credit information and other factors.
All loans are granted by Uplift itself, and approval is not guaranteed.
Uplift financing vs. credit card payment
What are the benefits of using Uplift services to finance a trip, rather than paying for it with a credit card?
"The total costs are not clear when using credit cards, especially if a customer already has a balance," Heffron explains. "In addition, consumers still do not understand how compound interest on their credit card is calculated. Uplift charges simple (non-compounded) interest and the financial charges are clearly presented at the time of the loan. Credit cards also charge late fees, unlike Uplift."
Denise Heffron also mentioned that using Uplift funding allows people to distinguish travel-related expenses from other expenses that appear on a credit card.
"Customers accurately assess the cost of their trip and when it will be paid," Heffron added. "Travel is part of a class of its own. By distinguishing them from other expenses, people can better manage their budgets and better prepare for this special event."
Promises to partners
Uplift has a special section on its website dedicated to partners in the travel industry, which promises a seamless website integration and high security.
Among its arguments, Uplift points out that its deferred payment solution means that customers are more likely to book immediately and are also more likely to purchase optional services.
"The option of paying over time increases the consumer's desire and ability to travel. This not only changes the way consumers shop and pay, but also the way they travel, offering them more options and choices, such as upgrading rooms and seating - benefits that consumers would normally have not considered," commented Heffron.
In addition, Uplift's partners receive the full cost of the trip immediately, without the risk of payment, debit or fraud.
Uplift is growing rapidly and recently closed a US $123 million Series C equity round. The company was founded by Brian Barth, who also co-founded Sidestep in 1999, the first travel metasearch that was later acquired by Kayak.
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