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Travel Industry News


Article Editor: Christopher Laird Simmons

New site to expand the company's advanced online group-booking technology to target the $15 billion SMERF market

PIGEON FORGE, TN - September 16, 2004 /Send2Press Newswire/ -- Group Travel Planet, which has been doing business as® in a business to business model for over four years, announced today the launch of, the travel industry's first 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 destination.

"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 DMO's 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 future."

(c) group travel planet logo About Group Travel Planet and®
Operating as® since March 2000, the company was the first to pioneer online group travel booking and with the recent launch of its 2nd generation web technology, the company continues to break new barriers by being the first to fully-automate the entire group-booking process from start to finish. The company, under the new parent name Group Travel Planet, currently has 2,700-plus professional tour operator and over 30,000 group leader members. In addition, the company boasts over 11,000 supplier members, with 9,200 being hotels throughout North America that provide group inventory and net group rates through its robust extranet. Last year, the company recorded online gross bookings of $38 million.

For more information contact Patricia Childers of Group Travel Planet, at +1-865-428-8878 or

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