Three of the big dot-com players in the meeting industry have recently partnered with (or, in the case of one, been acquired by) dot-coms in the corporate travel industry, signalling their belief that corporations ultimately will consolidate their individual travel management and meeting travel management systems.
First up was the May 9 announcement of a partnership between Event-Source, a Sausalito, Calif.-based meeting Web site, and SabreBTS, a spin-off of Sabre that handles individual business travelers' air, hotel, and car bookings. Next came the June 8 announcement of a partnership between StarCite, a Philadelphia-based meeting Web site, and e-travel, a Waltham, Mass.-based subsidiary of Oracle that handles business travel bookings. And then on July 19, Henderson, Nev.-based AllMeetings announced it had agreed to be purchased by GetThere, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based Web site that handles business travel bookings. Both e-travel and GetThere are creating models whereby bookings are made through direct connections with hotel, air, and car suppliers rather than through global distribution systems (GDSs include Amadeus, Apollo, Galileo, Sabre, and WorldSpan), while SabreBTS books through Sabre.
What it means for meeting planners right now is not a heck of a lot. Event-Source, StarCite, and AllMeetings intend to use their connections with these transient travel players to offer meeting attendee travel bookings online, but those capabilities are not immediately available.
EventSource is aiming to make attendee hotel and air booking available online by November. A meeting manager would set up the registration forms, controlling the choices attendees can make. At this point there is no provision for loading individually negotiated meeting airfares--only negotiated corporate fares and zone fares will be available. Some 375 companies already have SabreBTS on their intranets--these users will be able to click through to EventSource for meeting site selection.
At StarCite, the integration of e-travel's capabilities will take place this fall. E-travel has direct connections in place with Continental, Delta, Hertz, and Pegasus, and is pursuing connections with other suppliers. In the meantime, e-travel also handles bookings through the GDSs.
With its purchase of AllMeetings, GetThere has created one entity offering the meeting/transient combo that the others are offering as partners. AllMeetings' functionality was set to be rolled in to the GetThere site by September 1. Although GetThere has signed agreements for direct connections with 15 suppliers--including Marriott, Starwood, United, Northwest, Avis, and Hertz--the actual connections will be activated on a case-by-case basis beginning this fall. Meanwhile, GetThere is providing bookings through the GDSs. --Alison Hall