When Bruce Yoxsimer and Dan Whaley met in tae kwan do class five years ago, it was the start of a partnership that has revolutionized the booking of business trips.
Together, they created a technology that allows travelers to book flight reservations, hotel rooms and rental cars from office computers linked to the Internet, instead of going through a travel agent. Today, their GetThere system is used by 1,500 companies and 70 of corporate travel`s 100 largest spenders. Clients include Texas Instruments, Chevron and Nike.
GetThere`s power was confirmed in October when Sabre bought it for $757 million. Sabre folded its own corporate online booking product, Business Travel Solutions, into GetThere.
The merger united the two companies that dominated old and new ways of corporate travel booking. Sabre, a former division of American Airlines parent AMR, operates a computer reservation system used by 40% of the world`s travel agencies.
``We were on a collision course with them. We had a decision to make, whether we were going to fight tooth and nail at that intersection between Internet and old method—or join ranks,`` Whaley says.
``If anybody`s going to cannibalize Sabre`s business, it`s going to be Sabre,`` says Bill Hannigan, Sabre`s chairman and chief executive.
For companies, the appeal of GetThere`s book-it-yourself technology is that it displays air, hotel and rental-car options that reflect corporate spending policies and negotiated rates.
Online booking is a rapidly growing field in corporate travel planning.
A fifth of large and midsize companies have implemented an online booking system, according to a November survey of 400 corporate managers by American Express. About 44% said they plan to adopt it within three years.
``We`ve cloned the best possible travel agent, and it`s working for you full time,`` says Gadi Maier, CEO of GetThere.
With its purchase by Sabre, GetThere has no major competitors.
GetThere offers its system to small- and midsize companies through travel agencies such as American Express and Carlson Travel.
At American Management Systems (AMS) of Fairfax, Va., 30% of employees are using GetThere`s booking system a year after AMS signed on with GetThere.