Sabre's GetThere Capitalizes On Federal E-Travel Efforts

GetThere's technology provides a Web-based booking engine and is part of an E-travel application that's included in a contract with the General Services Administration.

Tony Kontzer, Contributor

May 12, 2005

3 Min Read

The federal government's E-travel initiative is proving to be a boon to Sabre Holdings Corp.'s GetThere unit. In the past few months, the initiative, which requires that all federal agencies have a desktop application that lets employees book travel online, has resulted in more than a half-dozen government agencies using GetThere's Direct Government booking tool.

GetThere's technology is part of CW Government Travel's E2 E-Travel application, one of three options chosen in November 2003 to be part of a 10-year, $450 million E-travel services contract with the General Services Administration. Three companies -- CW, EDS, and Northrop Grumman Mission Systems -- are competing for as much of that contract as they can win. So far, CW, a Carlson Cos. unit, has won sub-contracts with more than a half-dozen agencies, with the majority of agencies yet to select one of the E-travel providers.

Just 5% of government travel has moved online thus far, indicating there's a lot of business to be had, estimates travel industry consultant Norm Rose, who's also an analyst for research firm PhoCusWright. "It's very early in the game," Rose says. "By 2007, they want to have government travel completely automated." That means a lot of potential business for GetThere, depending on how successful CW is in beating out EDS and Northrop Grumman as agencies awarded subcontracts.

"Being able to have access to a large government population is a great opportunity for us," says Bev Heinritz, general manager of GetThere. "If we're saving companies in the private sector millions, I'm assuming we'll be able to do the same thing in the government sector."

So far, GetThere has only been able to study the impact on airfares, and it says agencies using the E2 app are saving 15% on air-travel costs. Agencies also are reporting improved compliance with travel policies, Heinritz says.

In working with a larger government customer base, GetThere is tapping its experience in the private sector, where nearly half of the Fortune 2,000 is using the company's Corporate Direct booking tool. GetThere's technology essentially provides a Web-based booking engine that can access airfares and hotel and car-rental rates from global distribution systems, as well as from travel suppliers that don't list inventory in those systems. It also takes into account travel policies that corporate and business travelers must comply with, and it triggers approval processes. Government agencies can configure the CW E2 app to pre-approve travel requests if all the conditions are met and budget dollars are available. The E2 app then links bookings with back-end financial and human-resources systems. Whenever a traveler books through the system, user information is compiled to build a profile that speeds the booking process. GetThere also is working with CW to build the capability to comply with the government's Fly America program, which is essentially a set of rules dictating what airlines should be flown from what markets to ensure that domestic carriers are used whenever possible.

Among the E-travel benefits the GSA is touting are around-the-clock access to travel services through a single interface, single-contact customer care, and automation of what had been manual, paper-based processes. All told, E-travel is expected to save federal agencies as much as $50 million a year during the course of the contract by cutting travel-management costs in half.

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