Tuesday, July 11, 2000

A Fun, Challenging Trip for Trip.com's new CEO

Mark Mastrini just moved back to his home state from a tenure Florida, where he steered several companies in the travel industry into profitability and public domain. Despite the new surroundings, this mid-30 year old exuded the relaxed confidence of a seasoned business executive whose approach to the increasing uncertainty in the Internet realm is that of focusing on value-added business models.

It's a smart transition to go from the brick and mortar world of an industry into the online component. You understand the marketplace from its original roots and its nuances, and you can better compete in the newer, more uncertain realm of the Internet medium. Mark worked at Braniff during the 80s and saw it through its second and third bankruptcies. As VP of sales and marketing, he gained industry exposure and moved his career forward. After this he took 800 Travel Systems from $8 million to $800 million in gross sales, bought 800Fly4Less and ran 800Lowairfare. In January 1998, he took the company public and launched an "e-initiative" by adding integrated chat to this small cap company. Mark knew that a trained travel agent could close a sale online, and service many more clients at the same time by offering an integrated chat program.

After serving significant time (in modern terms) with the 800 Travel Systems company, Mark answered the call when another enticing offer came in. Trip.com saw this young, energetic, experienced executive and wooed him back to the Rocky Mountain State to help steer the company through Internet rocky waters. Where 800Lowairfare maintained only 10% to 15% business online, Trip.com touts 80% to 90% in online transactions.

And where will Trip.com be going in the future? Mark has many plans, but could only reveal a few. He indicated that there are lots of assets that are yet to be realized at the company, hinting at its relationship with THOR, which the company acquired in September 1999. THOR (Twenty-Four Hour Online Reservations) is one of the travel industry's most respected providers of services to the travel community, selling over 30,000 nightly bookings around the world each year. Eight months ago, Galileo acquired Trip.com, which adds to Trip.com's strengths--Galileo is one of the world's leading providers of electronic global distribution services for the travel industry, providing reservation capabilities to 40,000 travel agencies worldwide.

Mark says he wants to continue to differentiate the product for clients and to give vendors added value. He wants to focus on the fundamentals of business and is very conscious of the value proposition model. There is huge value in the Internet, but as a distribution model. The other distribution Trip.com has gone after is the wireless realm: they just launched a wireless capability for rebooking flights from AT&T's Wireless digital PocketNet service. Users can access alternative flights, rebook and receive confirmation numbers.

Mark spoke about Pamela Berguson of Bid4Vacations.com as an ally to the company and someone who is an amazingly smart and driven woman in the industry. Himself an amazingly smart, quick-witted and driven man, Mark Mastrini seems to be on the right road and fired up to help the company soar even higher.