Been doing a lot of research on travel sites over the last few weeks. There has been a bunch of progress in a lot of areas - especially with regard to internalization of a lot of the US travel firms search results...
I am still wondering why GOOG
hasn't bought a travel company yet .. ?
My friend Saurabh
for many years through school college etc etc works for a major UK travel firm - and has some very interesting thoughts on how to make money and drive traffic to his company website.
One of the interesting ones which has a US presence and which is internationalizing is 'Kayak'. I currently live in the UK and I am using their kayak.co.uk version for booking my European travel. Its has excellent features like
1. Drag drop on what time you want to go for
2. Listing of all amenties by hotel
3. Listing of all airlines and their prices with easy to 'uncheck' check boxes
4. Listing of all airports with an uncheck capability.
Another good meta search engine with cool features is farechase - now owned by Yahoo. I use this more than Kayak because I can arbitrage the dollar pound exchange rate
(thank GOD I moved to the UK in march - if I had moved now I would have been 10% poorer). Its also interesting on how these sites have a lot of single sign on
capabilities with a number of different service providers - pretty impressive considering there are literally 100s of different providers they source data from. But I suppose thats their lifeblood to make sure they get their cut if their business model is linked to a fee per completed transaction ! But from the looks of it, kayak and farechase are hedging and going for a fair amount of advertising also.
Now the question which always comes to my mind is how these meta sites are going to monetise and track conversion rates and set up deals with ebookers
etc. For e.g - if I look at my buyer behavior - I would
1. Go to these sites
2. Check out their rates
3. Go directly to the airline in question
4. Save the 10 quid on the booking fee which would normally go to these sites
So net-net - if a lot of customers start wisening up to this - they these guys are going to get blown out of the water.
However - they do provide value when it comes to building products like weekend breaks, last minute deals (Lastminute.com
!) and most definitely when it comes to aggregating and showing hotel information (Especially farechase - its awesome for any global location).
Will post a separate note on some interesting other (US based) search options for airline tickets tommorrow ..