Oracle delivers tech goody basket for e-Travel

Leveraging the technical muscle of corporate parent Oracle Corp., e-Travel Inc. has released a slate of new and modified products that add travel management into larger corporate structures.

In the spring, the Waltham, Mass., business-to-business travel supplier started direct network linking of airlines, hotels and car rentals with corporate buyers. Now e-Travel has built travel management and business integration tools into its product set, borrowing heavily from Oracle's e-business and customer relationship technologies.

"This is definitely a direct result of our expanded relationship with Oracle. ... We're using some of Oracle's most tried and true technologies and adapting them to the corporate travel space," said Rob Wald, e-Travel's director of product marketing.

Oracle's Workflow was used to build a corporate travel workflow system for e-Travel customers. According to Wald, other business-to-business travel suppliers rely on third-party technologies from Extensity and IBM to manage in-house business rules and trip approval.

The company also released a new travel management suite of products that synchronize travel with other human services and procurement functions.

Called Enterprise Travel Management, the suite takes care of expense reporting, travel reimbursement and meeting and event scheduling.

Wald said e-Travel's goal has been to build travel into existing corporate infrastructures, not to build a separate corporate travel island.

"We believe it builds expense into the equation if you separate travel from the rest of your business," he said.

Oracle's Discoverer, an ad hoc query and analysis tool, has been leveraged to build a reporting system to allow travel managers to check supplier performance and travel activity.

Oracle bought e-Travel in March 1999 (see story), and Wald said the company's latest releases have been developed over the past six months.

"We're really now bringing everything together," he said. "These releases are sort of a capstone to what started when Oracle first bought us."

E-Travel also announced the creation of an Internet ticketing and customer support network. Previously, e-Travel corporate clients either booked their travel through the supplier direct links or built an itinerary after which they needed to make reservations through a travel agency.

Wald said travel agencies were often lukewarm to the idea of supporting customers who came to them with ready-made itineraries. "Those aren't high-margin customers for them," he said.

For $16.95, customers can now book through e-Travel -- far less than the standard $32 to $70 agency fee, Wald said. Like other online travel companies, the ticket fulfillment will come with a package of paging, Web phone and e-mail support.

While e-Travel doesn't have the market share of Sabre BTS or GetThere, analyst Kate Rice, at Sherman, Conn., online travel research firm PhoCusWright Inc., said it looks like it's taking business-to-business travel technology "to a new level." She noted that e-Travel's latest releases require no software, just a Web browser and Internet access.

"Their parent is Oracle, and that's the strength they need to go to," she said. "They need to stay in front on technology."

Henry Harteveldt, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said the latest releases help put e-Travel "on a much more shoulder-to-shoulder level" with Sabre BTS and GetThere.

"This makes them a much stronger player than they've been," he said.

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