In recent years, KDS talked a lot about the importance of partnerships with travel management companies. Then American Express Global Business Travel announced it would acquire the travel and expense tech firm. Some assumed right away that those TMC relationships would suffer. They were right.
Travel and Transport was once a key KDS partner. “Our relationship has changed substantially,” according to EVP and CIO Mike Kubasik. “A number of people we worked with at KDS including Dean Forbes have left the company or have taken new posts at Amex or other companies. We are still evaluating the direction we will take with the product, but as far as helping KDS become U.S.-market ready, we will no longer invest time and resources into that initiative.”
Kubasik said he did not feel well-informed about “how Amex will manage the product, what the vision is and how exclusivity will work. We are watching to see how the dust settles post acquisition, so we can make better-informed decisions.”
According to a statement attributed to Evan Konwiser, VP digital traveler at American Express Global Business Travel, “KDS continues to be operated independently from GBT and still supports other TMC customers as before. As of now, TMC support in the U.S. remains the same as before the acquisition.”
Travel Tech Consulting’s Norm Rose wasn’t surprised that other TMCs see it differently. “There are examples of shared platforms,” said Rose, but GBT’s strategy to own the technology “makes partner relationships difficult.”
Kubasik said Travel and Transport expects to support KDS for mutual clients in France. Generally, he said, Concur, GetThere, Deem and nuTravel remain go-to tools.
Travel and Transport’s work with Amadeus Cytric also is underway. “We feel Cytric has a lot of U.S. potential with global reach that is funded by a large company and is doing innovative things, specifically with the user experience and user interface, calendar and search algorithms,” he said.
Other TMCs also are going in different directions.
According to Campbell Resources CEO Bill Campbell, “we are no longer associated with the KDS product.” Campbell did not offer details on timing or rationale.
KDS in the past also named Fox World Travel as a partner. “Fox is currently in wait-and-see mode and we are not actively selling the product at this time,” according to Fox CIO Beth Marino.
According to a statement emailed Wednesday by CWT EVP and chief strategy and commerce officer Patrick Andersen, “Consistent with our previous messaging, where a customer chooses KDS, we continue to work constructively with KDS to support the client and their program.” Supporting clients when they ask clearly is different from having a “joint innovation roadmap.” CWT owned part of KDS before the GBT deal.
Before the acquisition, World Travel Inc. collaborated with KDS on a few marketing initiatives. Those included a party at last year’s Global Business Travel Association convention about a month before Amex GBT announced the KDS deal.
World Travel this week declined to comment. Speaking during The Company Dime’s Teleconference in September, World Travel Inc. president Dee Runyan said she thought KDS would “struggle to maintain productive commercial relationships with non-GBT TMCs.”
Executive Travel’s partnership with KDS dissolved well before the GBT acquisition. “We were not able to find any other traction within the U.S. market to give us confidence to move forward,” according to chairman and CEO Steve Glenn.