Breaking Travel News Launches New Group Consumer Site

Group Travel Planet announced today the launch of
, a fully-automated group
travel website focused primarily on the small leisure group market with
its own negotiated group hotel inventory from over 9,200 hotels throughout
North America. The new site enables the company to build upon its current
membership of close to 40,000 professional tour operators, travel agents
and group leaders by better positioning its group-booking technology for
the SMERF market.

“This is an exciting moment for our company and the thousands of suppliers
that we represent, and for the entire travel industry in general,” said
Scott Harness, president and CEO, Group Travel Planet, LLC, which has been
doing business as since March 2000. “Our dream was to
build a powerful online group-booking engine that would serve the needs of
all types of group travel planners, while providing suppliers (hotels,
attractions, bus operators and more) with a new way to increase their
group business. The creation of was the first step, which
helped to firmly establish our technology and business model—and now,
along with, the two sites can better focus
separately on both the managed and unmanaged group segments.”

“Hoteliers love our new business model and direction we’re taking the
company,” said Angela Brady, director of corporate relations, Group Travel
Planet. “Almost every hotel brand is represented in our portfolio of
9,200- plus hotels, giving the group travel planners unsurpassed choice
and convenience. The hotels tell us it is the most hotel-friendly model in
the industry, allowing them to set their own prices and room allocation,
at all times, depending on their unique market needs using our robust
extranet system.”

In addition to its already impressive database of hotels, the company also
plans to announce new partnerships with three major hotel brands shortly
and looks forward to working closely with others to continue adding to its
online hotel inventory.

Industry executives estimate that the small unmanaged leisure group market
represents in excess of $15 billion annually in the U.S., a market that is
basically handled off-line today in an inefficient call center, fax, mail
and telephone environment.


“Our fully-automated system not only makes it easier for group travel
planners to plan, book and manage all aspects of their group trips online,
but it also eliminates much of the backend costs for all of our supplier
members including hotels by providing payment tools, tools for adding and
dropping rooms, entering and managing rooming lists, and standardized
cut-off dates with fully-automated system reminders, which takes a huge
burden and risk away from the hotels,” added Harness. “No other online
system even comes close. I guarantee it.”

In addition to providing powerful online tools for managing group
bookings, the company also hosts a rapidly growing call center, which
handles inbound calls, monitors all online inquiry and booking activity
through its advanced back office system, and facilitates special requests
such as helping secure function space at hotels, finding step-on guides
for bus trips and finding unique things to do at the group’s final

“Bigger isn’t always better, though, when it comes to a group call
center,” said Harness. Better technology is better—better for the
consumer, better for the suppliers and, most definitely, better for
bottom-line profits for everyone concerned.”

Industry executives have also recognized the leadership standing of Group
Travel Planet, its unique market position and upside potential, which has
led to seasoned industry executives joining the organization. David
Sullivan, former CEO of ResortQuest International and COO of Promus
Hotels, recently became chairman of the company’s advisory board and Scott
Pearson, former SVP of—who has held VP positions at Choice
Hotels International,, and Hertz—is the company’s Vice
President of Internet Distribution.

With the release of, the company plans announcements
shortly of several strategic partnerships with various niche web sites and
software providers to add to its impressive list of current partners
including Clear Channel International, VERSYSS, American Bus Association,
USDM, North American Journeys,,, and
numerous DMOs throughout the U.S., just to name a few.

In addition to marketing its services through numerous channels and
mediums, the company has also developed the latest Web Services technology
affording it to easily co-brand or private label partner sites. “We’re
very proud of our technology and the web services we’ve developed for our
partners,” said Rick Sharp, the company’s CTO. “We have several new
organizations that we are currently working with on integration and we
look forward to their deployment and announcements in the very near