FRAMINGHAM (06/23/2000) - Trying to get into the business-to-business travel market before it's too late, Amadeus Global Travel Distribution LLC -- which operates one of the big computerized reservation systems -- yesterday said it's teaming up with IBM's Lotus Development Corp. subsidiary to design corporate travel management applications that will run on intranets or the public Internet.
Madrid-based Amadeus has yet to make a big splash in the business-to-business portion of the travel business, which is becoming a battleground between the established reservations systems and several Internet upstarts. Companies such as Sabre Business Travel Solutions, GetThere.com Inc., Worldspan Inc.'s Trip Manager and eTravel Inc. already have staked out positions ahead of Amadeus.
And Amadeus is still at least six months away from being ready to release its new applications. David Jones, interim president and CEO of Amadeus America in Miami, said the company expects to begin rolling out the promised system by year's end.
As part of yesterday's announcement, Amadeus and Lotus didn't disclose detailed technology plans beyond saying that the promised applications will work on top of Lotus' messaging and collaboration software.
The deal with Lotus isn't the only step that Amadeus is taking to get into the corporate travel business. Last month, it agreed to participate in a series of business-to-business travel portals that Broadvision Inc. and Bank of America are setting up. But the development project with Lotus is an attempt "to leverage us up significantly" in the fight for corporate travel applications, Jones said.
Nonetheless, Henry Harteveldt, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called Amadeus' plans "a day late and a dollar short." Forrester estimates that 400 of the Fortune 500 companies already have established some sort of business-to-business travel link with one of Amadeus' rivals.
Amadeus and Lotus "are going to have to go out there and demonstrate that they're better, faster or cheaper than everybody else, and that's not very likely," Harteveldt said. He added that Internet companies such as eTravel and GetThere.com, which have built direct links between corporate travel managers and airlines, hotels and car rental firms, "are rendering companies like Amadeus into technological dinosaurs."
But Lorraine Sileo, an analyst at online travel research firm PhoCusWright Inc. in Sherman, Connecticut, disagreed, arguing that Amadeus and other established reservation systems operators are redefining themselves.
Amadeus boasts terminals in more than 50,000 travel agencies and airline sales offices with a particularly strong presence in Europe and South America. Sileo said there's no reason the company can't use that worldwide presence to its advantage in the business-to-business market. And Amadeus certainly will hit the market early enough to compete for corporate users in its European stronghold, she added.