Developing, managing and tracking hotel requests for proposals can be an arduous task for travel buyers, which is why many have outsourced the process to independently owned technology companies. Recent consolidation has changed the face of the outsourced hotel RFP market.
Prior to this year, four key companies populated the marketplace: Lanyon Inc., Lodging Logistics, RFP Express and Uversa International. Then, Lanyon in May announced its acquisition of RFP Express, and RFP Express co-founder Joseph Friedman in June sold his new entrant BidStork to Sabre Holdings--marking the global distribution system provider's entrée into the RFP business.
Lanyon acquired RFP Express' 190 corporate clients, but did not disclose the total amount of clients it now serves. Officials said the company now manages content for more than 80,000 hotels and processes RFPs for 21,000 corporate, leisure and travel management company accounts.
BidStork claimed it has more than 300 customers, including Accenture, Best Buy, Charles Schwab, Google, Levi, Nike and Wal-Mart.
"BidStork is becoming a higher-profile provider, and it kind of shakes everyone up in terms of making sure you don't forget to keep moving ahead," said Lanyon Inc. chief operating officer Roland Tanner.
Tanner said most of RFP Express' offerings will be integrated into the Lanyon platform, as will the acquired company's customer service processes--for which RFP Express was best known. However, Lanyon will drop the RFP Express name.
"What we are doing is combining the two systems and creating a new system that has the best of both worlds," said Tanner. "All of the pieces are coming together. We are taking the two systems and creating a single platform for managers and hoteliers in real time and on a single system."
As with most consolidations, products and positions overlapped, especially in Lanyon's case. The company found that many of the customer and technology support roles within its own organization and RFP Express were duplicative, creating the need to downsize some positions, Tanner said. Many other RFP Express employees were uprooted from San Diego, RFP Express' headquarters, to Lanyon's headquarters in Irving, Texas.
Lanyon plans to improve its rate auditing offering by incorporating some of the services offered by RFP Express, such as the latter's filtration tool that ranks the RFP responses based upon the needs of the travel buyer. Lanyon also will create a hotel directory and enhance the current system that automatically retrieves information from the RFP to facilitate Lanyon's rate loading process.
"BidStork is becoming a higher-profile provider, and that shakes everyone up in terms of making sure you don't forget to keep moving ahead."
Sabre Travel Network vice president of hotel distribution Steve Fitzgerald said the BidStork brand might be altered, but few changes are planned. Sabre aims to improve the rate loading process, but its goals mostly involve increasing BidStork's clientele.
"We are pitching BidStork to GetThere clients, and the sales and reselling teams are definitely providing information ensuring that [Sabre's corporate online booking tool] customers know about BidStork," Fitzgerald said.
For the RFP processing portion of the service, Sabre said it would charge $199 for corporations and $399 for travel agencies. For rate loading services, travel management companies and corporations will be charged $7.50 per hotel. The price for the rate-auditing tool for hotels was undetermined at press time.
BidStork's Friedman, who remains president, said the model was most attractive to smaller and midsize companies because of its "affordable" pricing, which was previously a negotiated rate as opposed to fixed pricing.
Fitzgerald claimed that BidStork is more Web-based than its competitors and offers more of a self-serve model, allowing clients to work with and develop the tool independently with less customer support.
Lodging Logistics, which claims to have 70 clients, said the two acquisitions would not affect it. The company is attempting to build out its online reporting capabilities and has added mapping tools.
"I don't think there has been any real change. We haven't really eliminated any competitors," said Lodging Logistics CEO Robert Pepper. "We welcome the change."