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Amex GBT Lands Ovation Travel Group

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American Express Global Business Travel has acquired New York-based Ovation Travel Group, the parent company of Ovation Travel, Lawyers Travel and Chartwell Travel, the travel management company announced Thursday. The purchase by GBT is a major move in what could well be an active mergers and acquisitions environment in 2021 for travel management companies. 

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

According to the press announcement, Ovation Travel Group and its employees will become a division of GBT’s global customer partnerships organization and will continue to be led by Ovation chairman and CEO Paul Metselaar and the current executive team.

GBT global head of mergers and acquisitions Eric Bock said in a press statement that GBT continues to execute on its acquisition strategy in the U.S. small and medium enterprise segment. “This acquisition adds a very high-quality asset and business that will enhance the service and capabilities we offer customers.” 

Ovation Travel Group ranked No. 15 on Travel Weekly’s 2020 Power List, based on 2019 volumes. At the time, the company claimed $1.6 billion in annual sales, with 84 percent pegged as corporate travel volume. GBT, ranked No. 3 on that list, claimed $34.1 billion in annual sales volume that year.

Recent developments at Ovation include a 2019 relocation within New York City and establishing new offices in London. In 2020, as the company maneuvered through the pandemic, it introduced private air charter service and enhanced its traveler safety and support services. 

The company also diversified its online booking partners, announcing last summer a new reseller partnership with Serko for its Zeno tool, which joined a booking partner roster that already included SAP Concur, GetThere and Deem. With the acquisition, the company presumably will add GBT’s KDS Neo to that offering. 

Metselaar said in a provided statement, “GBT’s 100 years of service excellence, its values-driven culture, and its commitment to leading the industry complement us on a global scale, giv[es] me huge confidence in the future. I am delighted we are joining the GBT family.”

GBT’s Ovation acquisition follows Corporate Travel Management’s September 2020 acquisition of Travel and Transport, which ranked No. 13 on Travel Weekly’s list. Direct Travel earlier this month acquired Short’s Travel Management’s corporate travel portfolio, not including the Short’s sports travel business, according to a memo Short’s sent to clients.

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