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WorldTravel, BTI, and TQ3

Today’s announcement may have caught many by surprise. In case you haven’t seen it –
1) WorldTravel and BTI are dissolving their partnership
2) BTI UK will most likely be re-branded as Hogg Robinson and will likely purchase additional agencies in the US
3) TQ3 (TUI) is selling its European operations to BCD (the owner of WorldTravel)
4) Navigant will retain the TQ3 brand but now has limited operations outside the US
As part of study I am authoring for PhoCusWright (to be released in Q1 2006 and distributed by ACTE), I became very much aware that something was up with these three entities during my research late last year. The conflict was clear between BTI and WorldTravel as each had separate initiatives to provide GDS independence and aggregation services for its clients. In late 2005, TQ3 also announced an aggregation platform initiative, obviously now part of the WorldTravel project Renaissance.
What does this all mean? – Complete ownership is crucial to complete on the global TMC stage. When the dust clears there still will be four mega-TMCs – Amex, CWT, Hogg Robinson and WorldTravel. Navigant International either through the TQ3 brand or some other means now needs to build a global network to compete. Given the number of large global wins over the last 12 months by the BTI organization, it is unclear how the two former partners will be able to continue to work together given their emerging competitive stance, though both PR organizations are hard at work trying to reassure global clients. This change may trigger some of the large BTI clients to re-bid their TMC services. Overall this announcement is good news in the short term for Amex and CWT who have their global organizations in place. In the long run these new entities will represent stronger global players. Ownership in major markets around the world has become a requirement to compete for global accounts. This is challenging news for agencies that belong to Radius and Synergi.