The Back Office System That “Never Goes Down” Is Going Down

Open Jaw

Many Canadian travel retailers are scrambling to find an alternative after learning that their back office system Global Matrix will no longer be serviced for 3rd parties by owner Carlson.

Open Jaw has learned that Global Matrix customers were informed about 3 weeks ago that Carlson is taking the product in-house and will no longer offer it to other agencies. Retail groups were given until the end of their existing contracts to find and implement alternatives. Most of those contracts expire at year-end.

Global Matrix describes itself as “the largest and longest running non-GDS -affiliated software service provider in the North American retail travel industry.” Current users include Marlin franchises, Flight Centre, some CAA locations, Harvey’s Travel (a Carlson company) and host agency The Travel Agent Next Door.

Global Matrix was launched in 1968 by P. Lawson, giving the software a major selling point – it was “designed by travel agencies for travel agencies.”

In the 80’s a group of retailers got together to take ownership of Global Matrix: Marlin Travel, Carlson and P.Lawson. In the early 2000s Carlson bought 100% of the company. Since then it has been run at arms-length and its software used by many retailers on a subscription basis.

Retail users of Global Matrix now face the prospect of evaluating, selecting and implementing a new back office system over a short few months. Some tell Open Jaw this is a tall order. Not only that, most users have invested significant amounts of time and resources to customize the system for their own needs.

A group of retailers has made a case to Carlson to extend the deadline to spring 2017 so they can get through next winter. A decision is expected to be made in the next few weeks.

Open Jaw was unable to connect with a Global Matrix spokesperson. Word is that a Vice President has been let go and 20 Canadian staff will be let go at the end of November. There is also speculation that since Carlson has been selling off assets, Global Matrix may be available for a sale, and a combination of retail groups could be interested in making an offer.

Susan Bowman, Vice President, Marketing and Industry Relations for Transat Distribution, says alternatives are being sought. “We have taken steps to assist our members, getting an extension for many with Global Matrix plus setting up presentations with alternate vendors.”

Flemming Friisdahl, founder and President of The Travel Agent Next Door, says his company originally chose Global Matrix “because I have worked with them in the past and thought it was the best fit for us at TTAND.”

He says he was “advised in a very professional manner” about the decision to no longer service 3rd party customers, and that Global Matrix “is helping us with the transition and being very supportive.”

While it is a big task to replace a back-office system, Friisdahl says the end result will be positive for TTAND agents. “We are looking at other vendors and although GM is a very good system, we see it as an opportunity to build something new. We have the time to do that and perhaps build something to our specs.”

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