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Travel management companies seeking international expansion can build, buy or partner. In choosing the Radius network, Travelocity Business has jettisoned the first two, according to the Sabre Holdings division's president, Leslie Harris.
For global clients, the move sets TBiz apart from existing and aspiring global TMCs, lining it up closer to the regional or national TMCs that use mainly the GlobalStar or Radius networks to support multinational clients.
TBiz picked Radius after "an extensive evaluation" of agency networks, to the surprise of GlobalStar, which had also been in talks with Travelocity Business. Radius claims a presence in more than 80 countries through 90 travel agencies with more than 3,600 branch locations.
Noting that TBiz also would now "sunset" its Zuji partnership and WNS call center(the previous solutions for Asian expansion), Harris last week said, "When you think 'build versus buy versus partner,' the building was taking us too long and we weren't scaling well. There are certain markets that are harder to enter, like China, from that perspective. Just with existing TBiz customers, we will, with Radius, enter Latin America, some further European countries as well as some Asian markets in the first quarter."
The company will maintain its British and American call centers, but Harris said acquisitions are not part of the TBiz expansion plan.
"The extension of this global partner network is in response to the demands of current customers and also to be able to answer those global requests for proposals out there as more travel managers look at global spend under one roof," Harris said of the Radius deal. Nevertheless, "I don't want our eyes to get bigger than our stomachs. I don't think we should get greedy on bidding on things because we have those capabilities with Radius. We still need to make sure the customers we are targeting are the right fit, and people who still value the kind of automation and balance of service we bring to the marketplace."
That balance and client profile target emphasizes an orientation toward high online booking adoption more than a particular size of client, a spokesman noted. Harris confirmed that Aetna, Computer Associates, Lockheed Martin and McKesson remain clients.
Asked about the TBiz-Radius partnership, TRW Consulting's Tom Wilkinson (a former GetThere and Travelocity Business employee) said, "TBiz will continue to differentiate themselves from the true megas. TBiz also gets the network and the sales/marketing kick from its presumed ability to leverage Radius network capabilities outside the U.S. Perhaps even more telling, this positions TBiz as more of a 'mainstream,' and less of a 'new wave,' Internet business player. All of the Internet TMCs struggle against the perception that while they are great for online bookings, they may not have the depth to support all of a corporation's travel management needs as well as a traditional TMC."
Radius CEO and president Christopher Vasiliou, a former Sabre executive, said, "TBiz is not becoming a member or a shareholder. They are contracting to use the Radius network for fulfillment services and operational services." Travel management and technology services to be provided to Tbiz would include "data management, quality control and reporting," according to Vasiliou. Radius also offers negotiated local airline and hotel rates, 24-hour service, airport meet and greet, and multinational and local account management, according to its Web site.
Vasiliou said the deal is unrelated to the Sabre Travel Network GDS or the GetThere booking tool (for which Radius has no contracts) provided by TBiz parent Sabre Holdings. Radius' preferred global distribution system and online booking tool for multinational accounts are furnished by Amadeus (although Radius members use systems from a variety of providers).
Nevertheless, Harris said TBiz is working with Radius to better understand how they could cooperate on technology. "We're working with them so, when it's applicable, they can use a similar agent desktop if they're interested or the GetThere booking tool as it's appropriate for different customers going forward. They use some similar reporting and mid-office pieces, so that will enable us to do data consolidation and integration."
GlobalStar chairman Peter Klebanow said the decision surprised him because of GlobalStar's talks with TBiz. "Radius, having the infrastructure that it has, can perhaps out-market us, but I don't know that they have the same commitment as our partners. We certainly did participate in the evaluation, and one motivator for us was that we do recognize as an organization how valuable it is to have a booking tool available to our customers on a global basis. The idea of having Travelocity as a resource with some of our smaller partners to get them comfortable with GetThere ... that's what was interesting to me."
Travelport is "the longstanding and most significant GDS partner" to GlobalStar, said Klebanow, but "Sabre has been a sponsor at a number of our events and there have been discussions with GetThere, and those do continue." Klebanow is also president of New York-based TMC Ultramar Travel Management, a strong GetThere booster.
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