“Clearly 2009 was a tough year,” Yannis Karmis, president of Travelocity Business, said in an interview with Travel Agent. “Among other things it focused businesses attention on their travel expenses and how effectively travel was being managed to produce a return on invested assets. Cost pressures will remain in 2010, as will pricing volatility."
Karmis, a 12-year Sabre Holdings veteran and a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), believes, “TBiz” has enough resources to build on with $850 million in managed programs, By rank, TBiz is the among the 10 largest travel agencies in the U.S. and a major part of the $11 billion corporate travel market.
Founded in 2003, Travelocity Business leverages the resources of Sabre Holdings, Sabre’s online travel agency (OTA) Travelocity and GetThere. Travelocity. It serves companies across the spending spectrum, from small programs with less than $1 million in annual spending to large programs in the Business Travel News 100.
“Travel managers need solid information and data on which to base travel policies and decisions,” Karmis says. “This is also essential for negotiating deals and building relationships. Volume counts and deals now include more than airfares, including ancillary services, baggage costs or in-flight WiFi. Negotiations – hotels, cars or air -are detailed and must be data-based. CEOs and CIOs want results for their travel dollars.”
Another unique advantage Karmis has is that, as a travel management company, TBiz is among the few full-service corporate travel agencies that built and owns all of its end-to-end ticketing and fulfillment technologies. This allows for improved efficiencies and savings that are passed back to corporate clients.
Karmis also says that Travelocity Business has a track record of working with many corporations in various industries, including the American Medical Association, CACI, Computer Associates, Extreme Networks, Lockheed Martin, McKesson, Qualcomm and WellPoint.
Travelocity Business also has the ability to negotiate and realize significant travel savings for client companies by leveraging the buying power of millions of Travelocity members. TBiz customers average 90 percent online adoption in North America, and save 63 percent on their transaction fees, TBiz reports.
A recent win for Travelocity Business is its new agreement with Certify, an expense management firm. Certify will provide TBiz clients with expense report services to corporate and SaaS solutions. This allows capturing receipts via smart phone, camera phones, SMS message, e-mails, scan and fax and image uploads. Travelers can capture expense data through nine separate methods including iPhone, Blackberry and other mobile devices. It also supports 130 currencies for conversion as well as VAT taxes payments. According to Karmis, “Mobile technology is changing the face of travel management and reporting.”
Karmis spent the last two years managing customer services for airline, hotels and agency-focused Sabre Holdings units in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Montevideo facility supports various Sabre units including Sabre Travel Network's 55,000 agency locations.
Karmis sees that the real challenge for travel management companies is their ability to deliver client services and nurturing genuine talent. This includes such skills as multi-language fluency, technical competence and a global perspective.
Karmis notes that TBiz’ goals are not only realizing cost savings. but improving the productivity of individual travelers – individually and as a group. The problems of compliance and policy remain, but are improving as new technology becomes available and adopted. The ability to customize programs and capture unaccounted for travel expenses are major pluses.
Effective travel management can deliver results, including realizing gains in training, incentives, networking and communication with clients. “Companies recognize that they can’t cost contain their way to growth,” Karmis says. “Today there is a procurement mindset – travel companies seek a balance between travel costs and travel benefits.”
Travelocity Business faces stiff competition – including major players such as American Express, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and BCD, as examples. Yet TBiz has strengths including its ongoing alliance with the global RADIUS network. RADIUS manages $19 billion worth of annual travel spending through a tightly integrated global network of 90 independent, market-leading agencies in 80 countries.
What of the year ahead? Like any travel management company, Travelocity Business faced real challenges in a down economy as the industry struggles to halt declines and restore growth. Yet despite this TBiz sees opportunity. Its new deal with Certify may hold clues to TBiz future – increasingly global and applying new technologies that benefit clients.
“Sabre Holdings and Travelocity have a greatly diversified travel portfolio with enormous resources – people, management and technology included – and a balance between leisure and corporate travel. We are a truly global company. All of this will help us and our clients in the year ahead,” Karmis said.