With its new product, DirectMeetings, travel procurement provider GetThere is taking a different tack. “Adoption in the meeting industry has been relatively slow, because these tools focus on the professional planner, who sees them as a threat,” says Brian Ashton, director of meetings and events at GetThere. “We are not a meeting planning tool. We are a meeting travel and procurement tool.”

Ashton is the former vice president and general manager for AllMeetings, which GetThere acquired in July 2000 and which was used as the basis for DirectMeetings. “Where companies need to focus is on the nonprofessional planners who plan most of the meetings,” he says.

For a negotiated setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee, GetThere sets up DirectMeetings (and/or DirectCorporate, the company's transient travel procurement system) on a corporate intranet. It incorporates a company's travel policies and preferred suppliers into the booking system. GetThere also continues to pursue its goal of direct connections with air and hotel suppliers, with the aim of eventually bypassing the Global Distribution Systems through which reservations are currently processed and which siphon off a transaction fee for each reservation.

DirectMeetings offers users a meeting location search and a quick cost-comparison feature: Plug in the number of attendees and where they're traveling from, and get a rough estimate of total meeting cost. DirectMeetings also provides online RFP capability — but rather than taking a commission on meetings booked, GetThere is charging the corporate user a negotiated fee (between $50 and $100) per meeting for the service.

Detailed reporting tools allow users to track and use meeting spend data to better manage supplier negotiations. When a meeting is established, an employee can go to the same intranet site to book trips that take advantage of rates that were negotiated for a meeting, or rates that comply with a company's travel policy.