Most people are still discovering the power and simplicity of meta-search
Kayak on the maturity of online trip planning offerings
Be it for the ongoing efforts of suppliers or intermediaries or the relatively new travel search, planning and discovery applications, there is no shortage of options for consumers today to plan and book their trips.
Also, there is a sustained pressure on the OTAs be it from the suppliers or meta-search engines. Already, the industry has witnessed the removal of booking fees from the major OTAs including Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. The removal of online booking fees will lower top line revenue OTAs are able to collect, which in turn will weaken the financial position of these firms.
For their part, the users are starting to segment trip-planning sites from the user-review sites and the booking sites. Each link in the chain offers more choice – and more complexity – than ever before.
Assessing the situation, Faisal Galaria, MD – International, Kayak.com, underlines that online travel agencies "do a relatively poor job of helping users find the best prices and hence users visit six or more sites to make a purchase".
"These sites haven't changed much since their inception in the late 90's and they are designed to sell you what they have rather than help the users decide what is best for them. In short, the fact that users visit so many sites indicates that people are increasingly using OTAs for search but the user experience is not compelling," says Galaria, who is scheduled to speak at EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit in London on 19th May.
"It's all about delighting the user and so conversely Kayak and our sister site Travelpost eliminate the need to open up multiple sites and trawl the web as we aggregate the best prices from the OTAs and directly from the airlines, hotels and car hire companies and deep-link the user to the site they choose. Kayak allows the user to do this easily and quickly and since we are not owned by an OTA, the results are completely objective too," said Galaria.
The industry is already seeing hints of the more intelligent web in the guise of meta search engines, review aggregation sites, price-scraping engines, social trip-planning tools etc.
Web 2.0 travel companies are working to gather information from multiple sources that already exist on the web, in ways that are valuable to travel consumers.
As a travel supplier or intermediary, the challenge is to make your website and/or social media campaign flexible enough to be intelligently absorbed by these new web tools.
Galaria feels there is still a long way to go in the meta-search/review aggregation space still as most people are still discovering the power and simplicity of meta-search.
"In this economy meta-search is even more compelling as travellers become even more price conscious and hence the rapid antic-cyclical growth of sites like Kayak," said Galaria, who added that his company is investigating how and when semantic search can improve the search experience for Kayak users.
Galaria will be joining the 80 other industry speakers scheduled to speak at EyeforTravel's 2009 Travel Distribution Summit, taking place on 19-20 May in London.
For full event details, click here: http://events.eyefortravel.com/tds/online-travel-strategies/agenda.asp