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American Express Business Travel Unveils Virtual Meetings Solution

August 18, 2009 | Howard Lichtman

american-express-travel.jpgProprietary, Patent-Pending Solution Includes Automated Process Advising Clients at Point of Sale on Optimal Scenario for Selecting Telepresence Option Versus Face-to-Face Travel

Reveals Plan to Host Live Event Showcasing Telepresence Capability in September

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--American Express Business Travel today unveiled virtual meetings eXpert, a unique telepresence solution that will act as a central hub and aggregator of both public telepresence facilities and the private network a company may already have in place. The combination of public-private access offers a company access to a broader pool of virtual meeting options. Virtual meetings eXpert will help clients achieve their individual travel goals and savings through a flexible platform available both online and offline.

The Company also announced it has filed for patent protection of the solution, encompassing the design for aggregating the content as well as methodology and process which will help guide travelers in making informed decisions when weighing the choice to travel versus using telepresence services or virtual meetings technology. This service will be integrated at the point-of-sale with both travel counselor assisted reservations or online booking channels, including the Company's global eXplore portal, meetings solutions, and other key platforms.

Based on criteria such as the price, duration of the trip, purpose, environmental impact and more, the solution will alert travelers at the time of booking on available telepresence and high-end virtual meeting options, and guides them through scenarios that determine if it makes sense to take the trip virtually. Furthermore, the solution can also be utilized in helping companies convert conference calls and Webexes to a virtual meeting. Virtual meetings eXpert provides an efficient booking process of the available facility when it's the right decision. Not only can this drive key savings, but ultimately enhances productivity and employee satisfaction, by boosting collaboration that otherwise may not have been able to occur.

"The current operating environment and new level of sophistication presented by suppliers with telepresence technology has paved the way for heightened interest in virtual meetings as our clients look for alternatives to manage travel costs," said Charles Petruccelli, American Express Global Travel Services President. "We are able to address the evolving needs of our clients through virtual meetings eXpert by understanding the current environment and providing an innovative solution enabling companies to retain the highest rate of return on their travel and telepresence investments and continuing their ability to achieve their business goals."

Through the solution, larger companies that have already invested in their own telepresence facilities will now be able to extend their private network to include public facilities, further maximizing their return on investment by encouraging a higher utilization of their internal rooms. As additional telepresence facilities become available, smaller companies can also benefit from visibility into the availability of public virtual meetings facilities.

The Company also announced today its plan to host a press conference in September using telepresence platforms around the world. The Company will also use this as an opportunity to unveil its annual Global Business Travel Forecast and Trends Report allowing media to experience the virtual meetings environment at the same time.

As part of American Express' strategy to offer clients the broadest pool of inventory, the Company is working with multiple third parties to arrange for access to telepresence and virtual meeting inventory.

"Ultimately, we believe that both virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings should be components of a best-in-class corporate travel and expense program, particularly in this environment," said Mr. Petruccelli. "By being able to rely on an automated process, companies can feel confident that employees are making the right decision when it comes to travel versus virtual meetings, and taking advantage of every opportunity to save while maintaining travel that is strategically essential."

American Express Business Travel is currently piloting the first phase of the new solution with a FORTUNE 500 company.

About American Express Business Travel

American Express Business Travel (www.americanexpress.com/businesstravel), a division of American Express Company, is committed to helping its clients maximize the greatest return on their travel investment through increased cost savings, world-class customer service and greater spending control. Ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, American Express Business Travel provides a combination of industry-leading technology, travel management consulting, strategic sourcing and supplier negotiation support, alongside global customer service available online and offline. The Company also provides a dynamic online community (www.BusinessTravelConneXion.com) harnessing the collective intelligence of those in the business travel industry offering a variety of perspectives, best practices, current research and industry news.

American Express operates one of the world's largest travel agency networks with locations in over 140 countries worldwide. Total travel sales volume in 2008 was $29.1 billion, including proprietary volume, volume processed through joint ventures, and American Express branded volume processed through its partner network.

American Express Company (www.americanexpress.com) is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.


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Howard Lichtman's Thoughts
Interesting...  As VP of Business Development at TeleSuite I was working with American Express Corporate Travel in 2004 to help them understand the potential of publicly available telepresence.  Aspects of the design of our publicly available telepresence meeting center, Powwow Virtual, were developed based on feedback from members of the AmEx team.  I think this publicly available telepresence thing is going to be BIG... 
 





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