StarCite, American Express One Launch Meeting Venture

StarCite, a business-to-business e-commerce marketplace for the meetings and events industry, yesterday partnered with American Express One, a division of American Express that handles its travel arrangements for small and midsize companies.

StarCite will provide Internet-based meeting sourcing and management tools to reportedly tens of thousands of American Express customers.

“This is a huge coup,” said John Pino, chairman and CEO of StarCite, Philadelphia. “They are the largest travel company in the world.”

The companies will create a co-branded version of StarCite — — and offer customized sites for individual American Express corporate customers. The customized Web site will allow the customers to manage the meeting-planning process online, including finding destinations, choosing properties and participating in online reverse auctions for meeting space.

StarCite’s Internet platform gives American Express One, Mount Laurel, NJ, a centralized, online environment where it can offer its corporate customers “hot rates” and bargains, among other things, said Jay Roseman, vice president at American Express One.

With more than 3,200 registered users in its network of planners and suppliers, StarCite, founded in January 1999, had begun establishing itself in the $100 billion industry before the deal. In its first eight months of online operations since launching the Web site in November 1999, for instance, StarCite generated 250,000 room-nights, a barometer of success in the industry, Pino explained. By contrast, an unnamed rival recorded 100,000 room-nights over a 12-month period, he said.

Besides providing tools and services for the meetings and events industry, Pino said, StarCite joins key players of the sector via its BTB online marketplace. StarCite custom-builds Web sites for both meeting planners and suppliers, for example, enabling the separate entities to access information via the Internet at the same time, he said.

“It represents real [business-to-business],” Pino said. “It's business advantages, not just individual advantages.”

StarCite also offers its suppliers a variety of marketing propositions, including permission-based e-mail and direct mail, which enable them to better target planners or buyers, Pino said. Hotels, for instance, can key in on specific industry verticals, geographic industries or the expense patterns of a planner or company, he said.

“We level the playing field to allow anyone that’s interested in the marketplace, through permission-based marketing, to contact power buyers,” Pino said.

Such online advantages were part of the reason American Express One decided to strike a deal with StarCite.

“We felt strongly that StarCite’s model and their knowledge in this arena was the strongest of all of their competitors,” Roseman said.

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