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Monday, June 25, 2012

We're Not In Kansas Anymore

http://www.gdsx.com/Portals/149981/images/logos/triplink_logo_2012.jpg 
Today, GDSx announced its new TripLink™ product.  






According to their press release today, this new product, in the making for over two years, is being launched to "solve the vexing and growing problem of capturing travel data and managing real-time customer-service processes for trips purchased outside of a corporation's negotiated contracts with airline, car rental, limo, hotel, ferry and rail companies. 


I don't know about you, but I love the word "vexing".  Although it is not a commonly used term, it perfectly describes the frustration that the corporate travel management sector has been feeling with the increase in the number of rogue travelers, booking outside of the designated channels.  And when you couple this with the growth in the number of airlines that either do not participate in the GDS or are trying to woo the corporate travel manager or the travel agents to book directly via their supplier website, and you look at the limited IT resources in the average agency to address the fragmentation, the frustration is complete.

On a call to brief the press todayday, GDSx CEO Cindy Allen pointed to a comment by Cisco Systems finance director Susan Lichtenstein that was featured in Business Travel News where Susan said "We need to be able to provide to our travelers a method that allows them to stay in policy and book the way they live—through multiple channels," end quote. She continued, quote "TMCs should be addressing this proactively with their customers…We are not in Kansas anymore,".

Of course the Kansas reference is not a literal one, but a literary reference to the children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow, which in 1939 was memorialized in the movie classic.

Our industry has long been looking for a panacea to what I believe is actually an age old problem, but Oz has been elusive.  I realize that as we look around there are many things that are not familiar, particularly to those of us that have spent our entire adult lives in this industry. 

In my blog series this weekend, I talked about the fragmentation that occurred when I entered the industry in the late 1970s.  From 70-something Agnes refusing to use Apollo because she liked her baby blue Selectric typewriter "just fine", to Jill wanting to book on the phone with her favorite airline representative, as a bookkeeper in an agency, I had to figure out how to ensure that we had all the information that we needed for corporate reporting.  Sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get the agents to change or to request more information from their client.

While that hasn't changed, the number of rogue players has indeed increased, especially amongst younger travelers, such as the 70 million Gen Y adults entering the work force.  These travelers have grown up with technology and are not nearly as compliant as those of us in the Boomer generation were at their age.  They want choice and they want control and most of all, they want to be treated like adults and they want to be trusted to make the right decisions about their travel. 

Travel Team CEO Jean Covelli was right on when she stated for the press release "TMCs have for years wrestled with managing transactions, trip processes and data collection/integration when purchases are made outside the managed-travel channel."


My favorite part of the GDS announcement was this statement "The evolution of technology, turbocharged by social media, is creating dam-like pressure behind established managed travel practices.".  What an amazing word picture that this paints for us.   


There has been pressure on all fronts in the travel industry.  Pressure on supplier profits, pressure on the GDS to innovate, pressure on agency commissions, pressure on travel agencies to knit together a large, disparate number of technology components.  I could go on and on.  But I won't.

GDSx, with both their core product and their new TripLink™ capabilities fit squarely into the mid-office product family in the diagram below.  But the important thing is that it knits together all these other disparate pieces to give the TMC and its corporate clients a way to preserve the value that the agency and corporate travel managers provide to the industry.  





Postscript to the announcement:

Bravo GDSx for seeing a need and creating an innovative solution for TMCs to capture the rogue bookings and to allow an agency to apply their normal mid-office processes to all of the content.  This product is all about the TMC and all about what the corporations needs for its travel program.  Stripping out the complexity and removing the need to have a large IT staff to do the systems integration is a real plus for TripLink™.  The ability to pull data from multiple places and navigate that data confidently and easily with this product makes total sense to me.  And I think the TMC community will agree.



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