15 May 2007

Myself & More Thoughts on Travel 3.0

It has been a changing week with Thomson agreeing to buy Reuters for $17 Billion. Now the focus has turned and all eyes are closely watching the battle for the control of Dow Jones by News Corp.

Also to be heard in the technology news section was that Joost had successfully raised more than $45 Million in a recent round of funding for its expansion plans.....

In midst of all the interesting happenings of a typical day - fate had a mega play of its own scripted for its very own hapless creatures, I was the victim this time for the deadly
varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also known as human herpes virus 3 (HHV-3), one of the eight herpes viruses known to affect humans.

Guys - yes, I was down with
Chickenpox for nearly two weeks. I had to undergo this grueling first hand experience literally a rebirth as an adult, because as a kid I was never exposed to the virus. I had time on hand, but really couldn't do much apart from taking a much deserved full time rest.

I had full blown pocks the size of 25ps coins everywhere imaginable on my body. I, couldn't talk or swallow for a couple of days with body temperatures threatening to get out of control I was like Mt.Vesuvius, ready to erupt in Bangalore. I though that my skull would get unhinged to let go of the steam - Phew!!!

After all that, now relaxing on my soft bed of Neem Leaves, yes you heard me right - Neem is said to be the only panacea!!!! I thought that, at least let me respond to Matt from whom I got an E-Mail, Matt said that he visits my blog on travel technologies regularly and He wanted me to know about a new “Travel 3.0” site –
eTripBuilder.com. I personally felt that the "attraction feature" on the site needs some more attention/attraction. I was unable to figure out a single location through this channel :-( I guess it must still be in a beta phase. I do not want to make this as a review column.

eTripBuilder.com presents a solution that satisfies both the needs of the recreational and corporate traveler by transforming the way they schedule, purchase, and manage all their travel related services. I did log onto the site and was impressed with the user-intuitive features and the eye for detail & the best part is that its absolutely Free!!!

Over the couple of days I got time to go through some awesome articles from Sarman Mitra. The one on "Travel & Web 3.0: Overview". His insights into Web 3.0 through this article “Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS)”are very articulate and worth a read. I also had a look at another interesting read about Search Engines on the Read/WriteWeb by Nitin discussing the "Top 17 Search Innovations Outside Of Google” which addressed most of the frequently asked questions on Why, How, What and When??

Hopefully by this week-end I would be feeling much better and look forrward to get ot office the coming Monday.

Adios till the next time :-)

30 April 2007

Travel 3.0 what is it??

Has been a hectic few weeks and I am proud of Our company and our dedicated collegues for a super achievement. As of March 31st 2007 Iteamic is now SEI CMMi Level 3 Certified. There has been a lot of other things that have kep me busy and away from my blog. I could not restrain myself from writing on Travel 3.0 and what it is going to usher in for the days to come by!!!

There have been numerous articles on how Web 2.0 has changed the face of online businesses globally. The growth has been phenomenal propelled analyst fathom its impact every now and then. It has been a catalyst for the sudden surge in online Travel Portals [OTP's], distribution technologies and products built around them. It is constantly driven by online communities of collaborators who share information online because we trust it more than business-generated information.

In a traditionalistic approach it would be without a doubt that your trusted travel agency should and must get you the best deal. Invariably, unlike every-time there would be hiccups and it would always eat up into your purse, your holiday / business experience and end up leaving a foul taste in your mouth.

For most of the online users today Web 2.0 has done a lot of good with Dynamic Packaging. Just think for a moment - if you would have to do things sitting in a place like -

(a) booking air tickets [Lowest Fares - mind you]
(b) ensure that you have an advance Hotel Reservation/s and
(c) voila a car bookings, pick up and drop included

One-on-one from different sites – it would be chaotic!!!

In comparison - with the advent of Travel 2.0 you are just a step away from planning everything on your own. Its as easy and you can evaluate expert tips from your online community on everything under the sun. What more to say, you can get videos, pictures, food tips validated by the user community - from the community, by the community and for the community.

All you need is to get on to a suggested online travel portal - without even having to physically be there to oversee arrangements. With quality information and rich user interfaces for the user in place you can have the best of both worlds!!!

Hold your breath for here comes the 3rd wave Travel 3.0 - riding high on the success of the Web 2.0 - Its is something more like you can have the cake and eat it too

I would want to quote Mr. Tim Wright, MD at HyperTech Solutions UK, here - “Users could have access to these pre-defined itineraries (created, posted and ranked by individual community users), as well as abundant destination and component content and detail. Powerful vertical search tools will let users comparison-shop amongst a huge variety of travel components and products that best match their individual preferences - and they’ll be able to select, book and pay, all online and on one site.

With its rich content, choice and book-ability, and close collaboration between the travel portals, like-minded suppliers and a technology partner with the platform, capabilities, data structures would be envisioning the Travel 3.0 Saga. Read more >

This Phocus Wright Report has more interesting things for us to know about.

More for later!!!

28 March 2007

A Win - Win Game!!!

Huh, my first month here at Iteamic has been a eventful one. There have been a lot of things that we are strategizing on currently.

It seems that last week has also been interesting for indian Online travel portals [OTP's] as well. According to the latest buzz -
Cleartrip.com claims To have Clocked 480,000 Transactions And $100 Million In Sales In Year One. According to this interview on EyeforTravel.

Not to be left far behind is
Yatra.com who claim that they are well positioned and have pushed Travelguru down to position 3 and are currently topping $5 Million a month.Most of the Online Travel Portals [OTP's] are silently whistling their way to the banks.

They are happy and are confident about their respective vertical search capabilities and are consiously looking forward to more improvements through technology.

This made me want to know more on the technologies used by these so called
Vertical Search Engines for the travel domains. I explored some of them and have decided that I shall continually track these developments.

With Web2.0 and user-intutive interfaces the mantra of the day each click matters - vertical search engines like Kayak have their technology roots with Ajax served up by Apache, Tomcat, Java 5, with Perl, Groovy and Ruby operational glue, all running on Linux and developed (mostly) on Mac OS X Tiger and Ubuntu Linux. They use MySQL when we need to do databasy things. They also use memcached to keep the database from getting crushed.

Like how I had discussed earlier
here - In major verticals like travel, specialized search engines might take a big bite out of the traditional search engines' market share - including Google's advertising pie. This article gives us an insight on how Vertical Searche Engines are gathering their momentum.

I would have to rush into a meeting now - the developments would be keenly followed by me and you can check for further updates in a weeks time :-)

16 March 2007

Just round the corner

Thinking about projections. M-travel.com and HotelMarketing.com are reporting on numbers out from Euromonitor stating that India is the fastest growing online travel market in Asia- and by reporting growth numbers of 271.6% between now and 2010, presumably the world also.The online travel retail market in India is expected to boom over the next five years, with Internet-based travel retail transactions increasing by an incredible percentage between 2005 and 2010.

Site59 is no more the name to go with. The Travelocity owned US based last minute travel brand is changing its name to the best last minute travel brand in the Travelocity family - Lastminute.com is what it would be called - click here for detailed coverage.

According to Hotel Interactive - Expedia have told some of their travel suppliers in Spain that they are to launch Expedia.es in April or May this year. New research shows that Spain’s Internet travel market share is growing, in addition to an influx of new online agencies, some of which are successfully promoting online travel in the country. Seeing potential for opportunity, online travel agencies like Expedia and Opodo, have both announced plans to enter the market with local offerings. Currently, Expedia has a small office open in Spain.

15 March 2007

The way things are going to be

It has been an amazing last month for one of our very own desi companies having focus in the Travel, Leisure and Hospatility segment.

Mindtree Consulting who have some of the big names in the global travel and leisure industry like Avis Rent-A-Car, Avis Europe, and Cendant’s Vacation Rental Group in Europe went public and has registered a whooping appreciation of nearly 50% in their stocks in a matter of less than a week. Ashok Soota the Chairman and Managing Director claims that 100% of employees are covered by stock options.

Companies like ITC Infotech India Limited, have opened a dedicated development centre for one of its major clients, Finnair, Finland`s biggest airline which has recently started flights to New Delhi.

The Travel& Hospitality industry is a more consumer centric vertical and is managed by a few major players and when it comes to processes that directly produce revenue for the few large global distribution systems (GDS) such as Cendant Travel Distribution Services(TDS) and Sabre Holdings , these firms have been very slow to embrace outsourcing partnerships. The way things are going it should not be too late now - gradually a profound shift in thinking has established a beachhead for potential technology outsourcers. And looking at things how IT/ITES service providers are positioned, big deals might not come as a surprise!!!

14 March 2007

Good to Start With...

Off late it has been pretty hectic and I have not found time to get on with my blog. I was down with food poisoning and more-over changes on the professional front. I decided to move on from Valtech into a newer role at Iteamic to pursue better career prospects in a more challenging role.

I also came across an interesting find on Wiki catering to the Travel Technology enthusiasts -hope this article would help in understanding the nuances of how technology in the travel industry is making a difference.

27 December 2006

Back from Hibernation…

Hi Readers,

It has been a quit a while since I updated my blog. Primarily there has been a sea change in my current schedule and responsibilities – to set things in the right perspective this time around, I have silently made an oath that I would have to juggle with how things have been presented and continue to get the maximum out of both worlds.

It is interesting to note huge dynamism in the Travel Domain and in a short span of 2 - 3 months that I had not been blogging - there have been drastic changes that promise to change the direction in which the industry is heading too. There have been New Portals Players and Umpteen numbers of enhanced service providers. Notably there is also the news of Big Acqusitions [
Sabre for 5Billion by Texas Pacific Group & Silverlake Partners and Worldspan for $1.4 billion acquisition of Worldspan by Travelport] and New Technologies coming to the fore.

I would definitely be tracking all the happenings and make my blog an interesting one, happy reading and look forward to your valuable feedback


6 October 2006

La Quinta hotels selects Pegasus

La Quinta has signed an agreement with Pegasus Solutions to begin implementation of the RezView central reservation system for all La Quinta Inns and La Quinta Inn & Suites.

This deal makes La Quinta one of the largest hotel chains to use RezView CRS. Pegasus has been providing La Quinta with electronic distribution and commission processing services since 1996.

Under this new agreement, Pegasus will work with Keane Inc. to seamlessly integrate RezView CRS into La Quinta's business infrastructure including its loyalty program, Web site booking engine and data warehouse. Pegasus will also implement a two-way interface into La Quinta's property management system to provide a centralized, single-image of its inventory, rates and reservations.

"RezView CRS provides us with a system that has the flexibility to meet the demands of more than 500 properties and the scale to enable us to grow as we continue to expand our business," said Wayne Goldberg, La Quinta president and chief executive officer. "Pegasus Solutions has proven itself as a trusted vendor and we are confident this relationship will complement and enhance La Quinta's business strategy going forward."

RezView CRS is the most widely used CRS worldwide with more than 7,500 properties including others operated by The Blackstone Group, the private-equity firm that owns La Quinta.

"La Quinta's selection of RezView CRS demonstrates how Pegasus can serve hoteliers through a wide range of services that help them keep pace with today's technology," said Mike Kistner, Pegasus chief operating officer. "This significant deal represents a new focus at Pegasus--aligning with the best technology firms to deliver complex solutions. Our customers gain the benefit of the great ideas and skills we bring in addition to a seamless implementation of the solutions."
An award winning reservations service, RezView CRS is used by 60 of the world's top hotel brands processing approximately 50,000 reservations everyday.

Source: BreakingTravelNews

5 October 2006

Travelocity sets its eyes on India....

US-based internet travel service provider Travelocity has acquired Asian travel portal Zuji for $34 million. Zuji has presence in Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan. Following the acquisition, Travelocity intends to expand its presence into China and India.

"This acquisition, coupled with our acquisitions in Europe last year, demonstrates how we are continuing to expand the Travelocity network globally,” Travelocity CEO Michelle Peluso has been quoted in the press release.

The competition in Indian online travel business is getting hot. And why it should not be! Norwest Capital Partners (one of the investors in the recently announced Yatra Online) estimates that the Travel Industry is worth about 40 Billion USD in India.With MakeMyTrip and Indiatimes having a headstart in the business, this is a space to watch out for.

Travelocity, which announced its plans for India in May this year, is currently developing its product offering and building its India management team to offer Indian travellers access to a customised version of the international Travelocity online travel site.

According to Travelocity, selecting an experienced, local managing director was a key piece to the puzzle of building a winning travel business in India and offering Indian travellers a best in class product.

The world’s largest online travel portal Travelocity has decided to open shop in India. The new Travelocity India website is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter of this year and will be built on the technology foundations of Zuji, a Singapore-based company acquired by Travelocity earlier this year.

“The future of travel bookings in India is online. Just as we have seen the trend towards online travel bookings grow rapidly in the US, and now in parts of Asia, we absolutely believe that the global trend to book travel online has begun to ‘find its feet’ in India,” Zuji CEO has been quoted by EyeforTravel as saying.

Travelocity has appointed Himanshu Singh as managing director of its India operation. In his new role Himanshu will be responsible for leading the Travelocity India strategy and team, including marketing, supplier relations, customer service and B2B opportunities.

Himanshu is part of the executive team at ZUJI, Travelocity's wholly owned operation in Asia Pacific, and a leading online travel company in the Asia Pacific region.

Prior to joining Travelocity, Himanshu worked as group head of global distribution and electronic sales and marketing at Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. He had also stints with companies including Hotel Leela Venture and Traveljini.com

ps: Donald Trump continues his self obsession, and launches GoTrump.com (a website in association with Travelocity), to help users "travel trump style"! Its worth a look!

3 October 2006

Dynamic Packaging – What is in It??

Returning to work from a long weekend has been a feel good factor to me. I met Ajith in the morning today at office. Apart from the commonality that we both are from the same domain, unlike me Ajith is a die hard techi. The crux of our discussion was about “Dynamic Packaging in the Travel & Leisure Domain” and how it is critical to today's travel industry as airlines, hotels, tour operators and travel agencies realize the financial and commercial benefits of offering custom packages to consumers.

For some time, consumers have been purchasing packaged vacations. However, in the last few years, the travel industry has been buzzing with the catch phrase “Dynamic Packaging”. Many vendors claim to offer dynamically packaged vacations, but the true definition has been a topic of great debate.

So what exactly is Dynamic Packaging??

Today’s online travel consumers manually visit multiple Online Travel Portals [OTP's] to plan their trip, register their personal information many times, spend hours or days waiting for response or confirmation, and make multiple payments by credit card. Lack of functionalities is discouraging consumers – Where as in practicality there is a critical demand for an ability to create, manage and update their itineraries in real-time.

Dynamic Packaging can be defined as the combination of different travel components, bundled and priced in real time, in response to the requests of the consumer or booking agent.

Leading OTP’s let travelers build their own vacation by dynamically mixing-and-matching the purchase of airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars into one bundled low price, inclusive of fees and taxes.

The key point of differentiation between dynamic and traditional vacation packages is the ability for the travel consumer to dynamically tap into several, separate inventory management systems. The air could come from an airline’s inventory system or a GDS (global distribution system) the hotel room could originate in the hotel chain’s inventory system, a GDS or a block of inventory managed by a tour operator or vacation packager and the activities (show tickets, tours, etc.) could each come from a variety of different systems.

The entire process offers travel consumers access to a tremendous selection of inventory and is completely seamless to the travel consumer, who is unaware of where the inventory originates. A dynamic package is assigned a super PNR (passenger name record) as a reference code for the entire package. The super PNR reference code makes it easy to keep track of the reservation and its contents. Each individual component also has its own sub-PNR as assigned by the airline or hotel chain. Sub-PNRs reference the individual component and the system from which it originated. Though compiled by selecting inventory from a variety of systems and sources, the entire dynamic vacation package is easy to track, retrieve and modify.

Customers can be sure they are getting exactly what they want by choosing an online provider that displays specific airline and flight information, rental car provider, and hotel chain and location on one screen before booking.

They give consumers a competitive advantage with -

  • Specific offers and pricing per distribution channel

  • Real-time access to local or remote inventory

  • Custom or pre-bundled offers for instance - providing a single, fully priced package (hiding the pricing of individual components)

  • The technology includes the ability to combine multiple travel components (typically air, car and hotel) in real time.

  • Dynamic packaging platforms are based on an object-oriented XML architecture that allows seamless integration and migration of legacy and state-of-the-art systems. This offers stronger security and authentication between travel packagers, their retailers and consumers

    The packaging company can quickly and easily connect suppliers to its new selling system platform Hub which is compliant with Open Travel Alliance specifications wherever possible.

    These platforms are designed with procurement managers to secure products from selected suppliers based on specific travel queries and to return packaged responses according to validated pricing and business rules.

    Without a second thought, today travel distributors that offer dynamic packages are raising the bar in the travel industry. Those that give travel consumers more variety, flexibility and booking incentives (found only with dynamically packaged vacation products) will continue to be on top of the competition curve.

    Today the future of packaged travel is dynamic – and no doubts that it's here to stay. The new benchmark is being set – dynamic packaging is simply the most cost effective and reliant way for travel distributors to package, distribute and sell today.

    27 September 2006

    Cox & Kings may launch an online travel portal

    Travel major Cox & Kings plans to launch an online travel marketplace for service providers, tour operators and travel agents to sell their products online.

    The online travel sector may comprise a mere 2.2 per cent of the domestic travel market, but it is set to grow from $796 million in 2006 to around $2 billion by 2008, according to a report by PhoCusWright.

    Source: Business Standard

    Galileo signs six e-ticketable carriers

    Galileo, a leading global distribution system (GDS) and a subsidiary of Travelport Inc., has signed up Aerosvit-Ukranian Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui, El Al, Kingfisher, China Airlines and Royal Air Maroc as new e-ticketable carriers on the GDS, taking the total to 80.

    By January 2007, IATA will require 70% of all tickets to be electronic. Galileo is currently ahead of this target with more than 80% of tickets issued so far this year being e-tickets. Aerosvit, Air Tahiti Nui, El Al, Royal Air Maroc and China Airlines were joined on the Galileo system by Kingfisher, as the carrier completed electronic ticketing activation this week.

    Galileo's e-ticketing is not limited to point to point journeys. Complex itineraries, across multiple destinations can be e-ticketed.

    Source: Breaking Travel News

    26 September 2006

    e-Travel Requires a Killer App

    Earlier today, I was having a chat with Vernon about the surge in the number of internet users logging on to Online Travel Portals (OTP). It’s relevant to note how different varients of OTP's have spawned into vast numbers in such a short span of time. Not to forget in the least, is the list of VC’s queuing up to fund them. Some interesting stastics are showcased below -

  • ITA - $100 million - Battery Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, PAR Investment Partners, Sequoia Capital, Spectrum Equity

  • SideStep - $17 million - Trident Capital, private investors

  • Kayak - $15.5 million - General Catalyst, America Online, Sequoia Capital

  • Mobissimo - Undisclosed - Cambrian Ventures, Index Ventures, Benhamou Global Ventures

  • TravelPost - $1 million - Micus Capital, Arba Seed Investment Group

  • TripHub - Undisclosed -Madrona Venture Group

  • RealTravel - $1 million – Angel Funding

  • Viator- $6 million - Carlyle Venture Partners, Wandrian Brook Venture Partner, Boston Capital Vntures, and private investors

  • Gusto - $4 million - DHST, L.L.C., CEO

  • Groople - $6 million - ArrowPath Venture Partners, FA Technology Ventures

  • Indian Ventures:

  • Yatra - $5 million - Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), Reliance Capital

  • MakeMyTrip - $6 million- Gabriel Venture Partners

  • Travelguru- $10 million - Sequoia India's

  • Cleartrip - $3 million - Sherpalo Ventures, Kleiner Perkins

  • Is the effort really paying off and does the consumer get to be the king??

    An emphatic NO at this point in time - looking at some of the OTP's and services being offered, from a layman’s perspective it’s too much of information and too little for a choice. As this article suggests OTP’s are being promoted as an inseparable component of Travel 2.0, the new face of travel portals on Web 2.0

    To add to the misery, it’s quite appalling when you get on to the so called travel portal. Every other offering being showcased by these so called OTP, apart from the interface has nothing more to it. Customers are looking for ways to plan, search, and buy travel products from a multitude of sources. The prices, be it for the Hotels or Air Tickets show up the same or vary slightly. Loyalty Programs as a concept is, generally, extinct even so as services such as air travel become commodities.

    A recent study from PhoCusWright says the top four online travel agencies, Expedia, Travelocity, Travelport and Priceline grew 29% in the first quarter of this year compared to last year. Decent, but that lagged the e-Travel industry’s total growth.

    However considering these as toothing troubles - we also have a brighter side. Next wave of travel meta-search sites find fares more quickly and easily than there older predecessors. These site predicts how airline tickets will fluctuate, helping the buyer purchase when the ticket is cheapest have busted the mundane approach and have given consumers a unique channel.

    Lack of innovation and too much of hype around OTP’s is what is currently inhibiting the online travel. A Compelling and User intutive Killer Application is the need of the hour to rejuvinate the current scenerio. Hopefully it would turn out to be a worthwile wait.

    25 September 2006

    SideStep Gears Up Its Search With New Syndication Platform

    Companies that want to incorporate SideStep’s travel search engine into their own Web sites now have new customization options. As of today, SideStep has made available a new syndication platform, according to a press release.

    The platform is “the first of its kind from a travel search engine,” which provides premier partners with customization options that “go far beyond traditionally limited banner changes,” SideStep boasts. The platform incorporates colors, navigation, page configuration and the ability to customize page elements, such as SmartSort defaults and advertising units.

    ForbesTraveler.com, a new site also announced today, is the first partner to deploy SideStep’s syndication platform.

    Source: SideStep

    Pegasus takes distribution award at WTA

    Pegasus Solutions has announced it was named "World's Leading Travel Distribution Service" at the 13th annual World Travel Awards.

    The award, presented to Pegasus Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, John Davis III, was voted on by 167,000 travel professionals worldwide, including 110,000 travel agents.

    "It is an honor to be recognized as the leader in distribution services by the World Travel Awards," said Davis. "Distribution services represent the foundation of what Pegasus was built on and we are extremely proud of all we have accomplished and the innovation we continue to bring to the travel industry."

    Pegasus has been recognized as a pioneer in distribution services since it developed the universal electronic reservations switch in the early 1990's. The switch allows for instant connections to GDSs and the Internet giving travel agents the ability to tap into new distribution channels and customers instant access across the globe. Today, Pegasus' distribution services customers include 35 hotel companies with more than 130 hotel brands representing more than 60,000 properties worldwide.

    Source: Breaking Travel News

    Worldwide electronic hotel revenue up 13.7 percent in Q2 of 2006

    According to TravelCLICK’s quarterly eMonitor results indicate continued robust health for the hotel industry based on electronic distribution performance for the second quarter of 2006.

    The data shows that worldwide electronic hotel revenue from the GDS and key Internet sites increased 13.7 percent over the second quarter of 2005. The number of electronic room nights booked for the second quarter increased 5.7 percent over the same time last year, while the Average Daily Rate (ADR) increased by 7.6 percent. The average length of stay for the second quarter 2006 was 2.12 nights, nearly the same as last year.

    “The proliferation of the Internet drives the aggressive growth of brand website and key merchant sites, while GDS and travel agent related hotel bookings continue to show healthy 5-7 percent growth across global markets,” said TravelCLICK vice president - product management/eMarketing products John Hach.

    “Hotels that understand these trends and their impact on hotel performance can build a stronger distribution strategy and execute with confidence to maximize electronic channel presence through integrated distribution technology, marketing and intelligence capabilities,” said Hach.

    Observations for the market based on this latest data include: Travel Agency room nights through the GDS will continue its growth trend surpassing 100MM room night by the end of 2006; Bookings through GDS Powered Internet sites will continue to decline as merchant programmes expand their reach globally and technology advancements make it easier for hotels to do business direct with online wholesalers; The GDS will continue its position as one of the highest ADR (Average Daily Rate) channels tracking 30+ percent higher than its Internet counterparts; Top markets including New York, London and Hong Kong will continue to trend with their respective economies while new fast growth markets emerge into 2007, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Delhi and Bangalore.

    21 September 2006

    Travel Search Engines [Meta Search 2.0]

    While travel remains the largest sector of online commerce, more an more users have moved from "looking" to "booking" on travel Web sites. The complexities of what’s on offer, as well as choices among search tools, continue to increase as well.

    SEO, was a passion with me during the start of my professional career. Invariably without any second thoughts, I wanted to know more about the the developments in the Online Travel Search Engine space.

    The trend is off late is being touted as the next best thing to happen to Travel Search. I happened to download this interesting report on Whether Travel Search Engines Deliver? (click the link to download) and thought that I might as well share it with you.

    Although the report primarily evalutes consumer behaviour in the US with respect to Online Travel Websites and Online Search Engines - it is very evident that the rest of the world may not be too far in catching up.

    Looking not so long ago, the now “old school” online travel sites (like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity) have to compete with meta-search sites that aim to gather travel fares and hotel rates faster than it takes us to browse and query all the best online travel sites from our bookmarks to find out the cheapest prices. They are like a google for travel. They basically search for travel deals, just like google searches for content.

    This generation of new travel sites is quite competitive; One could think that once they will have integrated most of the major travel players, all those aggregators will probably create (competitiveness but also) confusion to the internet customers as they won’t know which aggregators to choose (Mobissimo, Sidestep, Kayak, Yahoo, Farechase etc.) and will have to price compare the aggregators!

    Apparently according to Forrester - "Metasearch sites had sold themselves to the travel industry as a panacea for its distribution ills. But this initial version of metasearch — metasearch 1.0 — quickly built a bad reputation with the industry. Airlines, in particular, were on the receiving end of unfulfilled big promises and unexpected, unbudgeted costs — from escalating polling fees to increasing demands on marketing, IT, and legal."

    The good news is that the travel search firms are maturing. Increased use of cached fare data, innovative technology like mashups and AJAX, and creative solutions to help travelers search for trips help make metasearch 2.0 a more viable distribution option. It's far from perfect: Airlines remain less than pleased with fare polling costs, and some travel search engines' business models frustrate industry executives.

    Online travel search engines should keep their perspectives right on track and milk the advantage of metasearch 2.0, which will combine richer, perspective-based content aggregation with greater user control and more attractive, user intuitive displays.

    These services exemplify what Travel 2.0 is all about: flexibility, transparency and consumer control and consumer being the king.

    20 September 2006

    Skype seeks growth through large travel company

    Free internet phone call service Skype is seeking a large UK travel company, such as a global distribution system, to champion its usage and gain further momentum within the sector.

    Skype UK, Ireland & Netherlands market development manager Alistair Shrimpton said he was beginning to see the software make some headway within travel but predominantly among small businesses.

    "In travel I'm seeing the fringe of what we saw in the small business arena before it really boomed for us. I'm seeing small, sharp entities realising that by offering it as a way for users to contact you, you get more business.

    He continued: "Travel is a key category and we need a champion – someone like a Galileo or an Amadeus. There are huge cost savings and efficiency savings to be made."

    He highlighted the other benefits of using Skype such as using it to send information, pictures and videos as well as for talking and instant messaging.

    "When I reserved my holiday online my wife sent me a lastminute.com URL using Skype so that I could see it, click on it and buy it. We see so many people who get to the 'buy me' button but need someone else to help make the decision."

    Shrimpton added that in some areas of the world Skype was becoming a 'default' technology with customers expecting companies to provide it as a means of communication.

    He also cited examples where Skype is ideal for travel such as 'Skype call me' buttons on websites for users to contact a hotel, car-hire or other travel company. Shrimpton said he was already in discussions with a number of online travel companies to use Skype call me buttons on their websites and integrate them with call-centres.

    Travel-themed Skypecasts are another good application for travel, enabling people to use the technology to share ideas about a destination, he said. In the UK, Skype claims three million registered users - 8% of the potential market.

    Shrimpton said: "It is small and there is a long way to go but the market is bigger than where we are today."

    eBay-owned Skype registers six new users worldwide every second and claims to be already picking up 7% of international call minutes.

    [Source: Travel Mole, Report by Linda Fox ]

    India to become a multi-billion dollar online travel market by 2008

    Ahoy!! India is agressively moving forward and the latest report by Phocuswight has more to the story.

    India’s rapid economic growth and rising prosperity are fueling multiple sectors of the economy, including lifestyle products such as travel and tourism. Two drivers increased business activity (including infrastructure improvement) and rising consumption of leisure travel services are firmly in place. All sectors of travel inbound, domestic and outbound are seeing double-digit growth rates, and the online travel market is set for a major boom with several catalysts coming into play almost simultaneously.

    The online travel market in India will be the most dynamic in APAC, and will experience strong growth over the next five years. Unlike in China, where only 3% of Web-initiated travel transactions were fulfilled online, 95% of such transactions will be fulfilled online as the Indian market develops.

    Thus, travel will emerge as a true e-commerce play, thanks largely to the fact that online travel has few legacy systems to transition, and thus the move online has been and will be more or less fully automated.

    19 September 2006

    Travelistic - A Peek into Social Travel Video Site

    Voila!!! With the introduction of an exciting new project called Travelistic you can find travel specific videos.

    I got an invite through Travelistic to review this exciting project, which is currently a beta version, and allows travellers to upload their video, add tags so that visitors can find videos quickly, identify the location of the video which appears on a Google Map.

    Visitors can add comments, and also add the video on their own website – not only can you search by tag, but you can also search for videos by location, which is a very handy feature if your looking for a video on a specific destination.

    The video pictures are crisp, very good sound, and overall I was very impressed – what I would like to see is a rating system, and counter on the number of visits / or number of sites linking to the video.

    Whilst it doesn’t offer anything different than YouTube, if your looking for travel specific videos, it would be my first port of call – I’d like to see some unique features added, but it has me hooked.

    If you’d like to help beta test then visit www.travelistic.com

    Is it Too Early...??

    Off late there have been speculations on how the Online Travel Industry is on the verge of a paradigm shift. I was reading an interesting article on the rise of the Travel Startups.

    Some how it looks like too many startups in too less a time. Not to disagree with the experts, on the contrary having been through "The Dot-com Bubble-Burst" - the scenerio of todays Online Travel Industry stands to differ in most aspects.

    In the first place, the terminology of a bubble does not seem to be appropriate.The era of the big travel start-ups like Expedia and Travelocity, the only two truly huge players- Orbitz was an airline backed venture at the start and today it seems to have a past.

    Apparently, in the last few years traditional travel companies, especially in Europe have entered the online market and compete strongly with them. What many people consider travel start-ups, like Kayaka, FareChase, Mobissimo and the like, are not really travel companies but advertising revenue based meta search outfits.

    So, to speak of a bubble in online travel is not appropriate.It might not be a bubble yet, but it’s certainly an attractive market.What each of these operators is doing is playing into the hands of smaller, more nimble, eager-to-please websites.

    18 September 2006

    Air Canada Says Goodbye To ‘Legacy’ Reservation Systems

    ITA Software will be helping Air Canada revamp its reservation management system to be more customer-friendly.

    The airline signed an agreement with ITA Software on Sept. 13th 2006 to develop a new reservation management system that will upgrade reservations functionality, inventory control with seat availability, and check-in and airport operations modules, said Air Canada.

    The complete solution will be deployed in late 2007 across the entire Air Canada network, including reservation call centers and airport locations worldwide. The reservation system presents itself as an application hosted by ITA Software and will simultaneously support the airline’s ongoing participation in the Star Alliance.

    “This next generation reservation system will mark an end to airlines’ reliance on legacy systems and processes and the merchandising limitations that result from these archaic technologies,” said Jeremy Wertheimer, ITA Software’s President and CEO. [Source:TravelBizBuzz]

    14 September 2006

    Web 2.0 - What is in it for Travel and Leisure??

    Web 2.0 is becoming the "mantra" which, off-late has been seen as the next alternative to the internet services of today.

    There has been much written about it and analyst have been quick to point out on how the "Online Travel and Leisure Industry" can transform itself to showcase and pack a punch into their range of offerings.

    I would like to share this interesting article that I found, on Web 2.0 by John Bray of Phocuswright in which he suggests that this could be a close "Next Best Thing" to happen to the industry.

    A positive sign for the times to come by to Web 2.0 proponents, where participation is the future.

    13 September 2006

    Searching Hotels on an interactive world map

    Hotel World Map has introduced its new search engine offering, enabling business travellers and tourists search for 60000 hotels worldwide on an interactive Google Map.

    The Hotel World Map booking engine is powered by the Sabre Travel Network and has been developed by Makayama Interactive, a software and services company from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    As per the focus group research, conducted by Hotel World Map, travellers find existing travel websites difficult to use and that they require too many steps to find out even the basic information. The majority of the test group users had negative opinions about the cluttered interfaces of existing websites and believed they were pushing customers towards booking certain hotels.

    “For example, the participants in the research were asked to find a hotel in Miami within one mile from the airport. It took them on average three minutes using the biggest travel portals, but only 90 seconds using Hotel World Map. In another test, they were asked to find a hotel on the Dutch coast, that was close to the beach. Using the established portals, it took five times longer,” stated the company.

    Leveraging focus group feedback, the company says the user experience is a neutral, purely map-based search engine, that doesn’t push people to certain offers or discounts. Hotels are plotted on the map and with one click, users can get a picture preview. The accuracy of the hotel locations is less than 10 metres.

    A satellite view gives a bird’s eye picture of the surroundings. A second click will take the visitor to a page with detailed hotel and pricing info. Real-time availability information is also available and travellers may book instantly.

    12 September 2006

    India - Now a Portal for Bus Travel...!!!

    These are times when most of the travel portals opt and look more towards Air travelers by competing against each to get their margins.

    redBusI found a unique portal redBus, which is currently targetting and caters to the domestic bus traveller. Apparently the website www.redbus.in is a portal, that integrates private bus operators (primarily long distance operators) and travellers. The service has been launched last month and it looks like that they are running their beta trial.

    redBus is an innovation from Pilani Soft Labs Pvt. Ltd. The company is setup by BITS-Pilani alumnus with the vision to innovate for everyone's convenience.

    They get inventory from fleet operators and put them online for sale. The tickets are for sale till 12 hours before the travel date. Passengers can book tickets using credit card, debit card and bank transfer. For transactions, they have already partnered with a few operators like Jabbar Travels, Rajesh Travels and Diwakar Travels - all South-based at the moment - adding some 60 buses to the system.

    The company is part of the Bangalore's TiE-EAP, and is not venture-funded yet. However, in the near future they would be rolling out in other cities too. By mid-September, they are starting a branch office in Hyderabad and in Chennai in early October.

    Online Travel Market In India - The New Wave

    India with its population of more than one billion people, is an attractive destination for showcasing the Travel and Leisure Industry.

    Today the Online Travel Industry is on the verge of becoming one of the most powerful and dynamic parts of the booming Indian economy.A new report by PhoCusWright, "The Emerging Online Travel Marketplace in India," estimates that online leisure/unmanaged business travel gross bookings in India totaled $295 million in 2005 and will grow nearly sevenfold in just three years to go beyond $2.0 billion by 2008.

    Rapid growth, technological advancement and increasing affluence are changing the way people buy travel and opening up a dynamic marketplace to the rest of the world despite of the fact that India is quite different from other areas of corporate travel expansion; the cultural and market differences here make expanding a global travel programme in India a unique challenge.

    The internet is redefining travel distribution, with customers buying their travel through an ever-increasing number of sources and channels.It is interesting to note that the Indian Travel Online marketplace is already gearing itself to be big.

    Already a plethora of online travel portals have mushroomed promising to offer a whole lot of services.According to PhocusWright, already In 2005 and 2006, at least eight startups or subsidiaries of established entities have or will have launched sites in the market, including Makemytrip, Yatra.com,Cleartrip.com and Indiatimes Travel. With an estimated $60 million in venture capital backing online travel agencies in the past 12 months, Travelocity India in the wings and an Expedia entry certainly not far behind, significant investment in the online channel in India is well underway.

    With the arrival of a gamut of new low cost carriers, the Indian airline industry is experiencing rapid change and expansion.The continued emergence of new airlines in the low cost market place, and the attempt by traditional airlines to generate more sales via their websites, means that the choice for customers is greater than ever.There are now 8 low-cost airlines in India, and more are planning launches this year already.

    As the grapevine suggests there are plans that, A group of 1000-odd travel agents across India reportedly offered to jointly acquire a 30 percent stake for around US$156 million from a private operator [more here]...

    Analyst report indicate that, there is no major market in the world in which Low Cost Carriers (LCC's) have grabbed so much share from traditional travel providers in such a short period of time.

    A large number of independent operators coupled with a more complex product offering has meant that the Indian hotel industry has been slower to embrace e-commerce. However, as India's major hotel chains develop more robust online marketing and distribution strategies and online intermediaries race to become one-stop shops for hotel deals.

    In the US and Europe, the leading online travel intermediaries have taken market share from their offline counterparts. At the same time, an increase in direct sales through travel supplier's own websites has also affected the traditional agency business.

    The need to balance direct and indirect channels, demand for lower cost distribution and the growth in popularity of comparison shopping are all factors driving the business model for travel specific search engines globally.

    Way to go...!!!

    7 September 2006

    Travel Technology - Then & Now

    Traditional travel technologies focus on the rudimentary tasks of booking travel, but the market demands a single source to support the full spectrum of travel logistics. With respect to the Travel Industry Supply Chain, there can be various technologies involved to address specific needs catering from the traveler seeking a simple, efficient travel and service purchasing experience, to the operations, security and procurement directors extracting data on-demand for critical business decisions.

    The backbone of the travel industry’s growth is its complex distribution network of suppliers and intermediaries.Travel specific technologies revolve around the “Reservation and Distribution System”. Travel distribution infrastructure has evolved over the years to support the changing needs of the industry.

    Initially manual systems required centralized reservation centers, groups of human beings in a room with the physical “cards” that represented inventory. Quickly, a network concept emerged, which connected the various ARSs (Airline Reservation System) together and made them available to travel agents. This became known as the CRS (Computerized Reservation System) concept.

    Just as the invention of the ARS enabled the automation of flight and seat control within an airline, the CRS concept automated the reservations process by placing the reservations technology for all airlines on a travel agent’s desk, eliminating the need for the travel agent to call the airline to make reservations. This enabled the travel agent to spend more time helping the traveler and enabled the airline to, in essence, outsource the telephone reservation process.

    With the introduction of what is now referred to as the GDS (Global Distribution System) came the pioneering of many remarkable time tested concepts; the first commercial real-time application, the concept that computers had applications beyond number crunching, data can be presented remotely and maintain integrity and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) within a supply chain

    The internet not only fragmented the itinerary by rewiring the traditional travel distribution supply chain, but also made limitless GDS (Global Distribution System) data available to the consumer not accustomed to precision shopping. This unfiltered burden on the GDS data sources has driven the cost side of the efficiency equation through the roof.

    The travel industry changes very rapidly. Trends of two years ago are often reversed, and budget travel strategies that worked in the recent past might not be of much value today.

    Technology is changing the underlying infrastructure and business practices of travel distribution. The traditional value chain of supplier to wholesaler to retailer has been permanently altered. Suppliers and wholesalers are becoming retailers, while retailers have embraced a merchandising model to become wholesale package distributors. At the heart of this change is a shift from old mini-computer-based systems to open distributed technology that dynamically combines content to meet users' preferences.

    6 September 2006

    A Start...

    Off late, I made my transition into the Travel and Hospitality Domain. I have been fascinated on how , Information and Communications Technology [ICT] has had a profound impact on the Industry in the last decade.

    Through this blog I want to make a conscious effort to track, technology that has been one of the major influencing factors in shaping the existing Industry of today.

    Your valuable suggestions and feedback would be a great morale booster.Your comments and feedback are really valuable to me!