Friday, June 30, 2006
e-Tid are reporting (registration requried for link) that Daniella Wagner (MD Octopus Travel) is joining the list of departures from Cendant TDS/Travelport. No word on her replacement or where she is going. Daniella is the creator of the successful affiliate model based Octopus Travel.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Flight Centre's new online plan is to put computers in the store to allow customer's to book online as part of their shop of the future (travelweekly report pdf). Each store will have two kiosks. My how to grow the online business tip to Flight Centre is to ..well.. spend the money online, not off.
In paid search, almost every word you can think of has a travel angle. Google know this and have whole teams devoted to nothing but Travel. Every destination, activity, subject matter, mode of transport, event, function has a travel possibility attached. Oh for the relative simplicity of marketing "Home Loans", where all you have to bid on is three words "home" "loan" and "mortgage". This is both a blessing for marketers in the scope and possibility for finding second and third tier words to be bid on at lower cost. It is a curse as it is easy to lose your focus and bid too much on too many. Tripadvisor have also stepped up their efforts in taking travel paid search marketing dollars from Google by adding downloadble guidebooks to attract further qualified traffic.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
It is not enough for AAA Tourism that they have a government sactioned exclusivity to stars in ranking systems (or anything that looks like it). Now they want online retailers to refuse to stock self rated hotels (AAA press release, Travel Today story). I am all for quality controls and standards, especially after spending time in American hotels that claim to be 4 star. However I object to the monopoly that the government has granted to AAA Tourism. If AAA are such strong believers in their history and brand, then that should be enough to entice hotels to use their ranking system. If they are good enough at their job, voluntary participation would be extensive and consumers protected. The bullying tactics they take with retailers and properties look more like justifying their existence and extending an outrageous monopoly than protecting the consumer.
More Victories for Octopus in signing up offline distribution in deal with HWT. It is time Cendant/GTA stopped describing this as a consumer brand and embrace its true nature - offline and affiliate specialist.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
SITA has published results of a survey confirming that online air sales continue to soar. "560 million of today’s two billion airline passengers now use the Internet to make their bookings" (travelmole, eyefortravel and SITA itself). If this is true and noting that both Sabre/Travelocity and Expedia had bad first quarters, then the airline tactics of investing more in their own websites and best fare guarantees must finally be paying off in shifting share from online travel agents.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Have a look at the Flyspy alpha. They have put together a very impressive series of data points to show in a simple graph changes in price by departure date. In Web 2 speak it is an air search mashup. Podtech have an interesting podcast interview with the founder. Fascinating that one guy has found a way to display complicated flight info and options that (while data heavy) provides better price vs departure date guidance than any of the heavily tech staff stocked big guys. Will keep a watch to see if this comes out of Alpha.
UPDATE - Fast Company have a quick note here
UPDATE - Fast Company have a quick note here
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Priceline have shown the way in how to integrate acquisitions with the continued quiet growth of activehotels. Nine months after the acquisition, Activehotels continues to grow its business in the UK with new external distribution deals, increased internal distribution by taking over the home page of priceline.co.uk and adding local review content. They have avoided the misguided push to combine the Bookings and Activehotels brands and product. Critically the pre-acquisition Activehotels and Bookings teams have formed the core of Priceline Europe. The consolidation in online travel is not yet over. There are a large number of active (no pun intended) small to medium players that would benefit from being part of a larger network just as there are markets that the big players would do better to buy into rather than build. The stumbling block for some has been integration. Priceline's successful integration with Active and Bookings is in stark contrast to Travelocity with Lastminute and Cendant with everything.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Fantastic photo of the sky around Sydney this morning that grounded flights at Kingsford-Smith (thanks SMH). Never seen anything like the photo but have known the horror of delays in flights in Sydney on a Friday.
Priceline cuts a deal with G2, Expedia takes/will take Amadeus in Australia and Europe, Orbitz is going to move to Galileo one day and Sabre bought Lastminute.com. Not a good time to be an owner of Worldspan. Citigroup led private equity spent a lot of money taking Worldspan private looking to streamline costs then flip for a good return. Worldspan made a loss in 2005. Is trying to fight back in 2006 though transaction numbers continue to fall. Somewhere along the line customer retention and product innovation was forgotten in restructuring and yield focus. Good article here from Michele McDonald of ATW on GDS challenges.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
CNET's news.com reports that some goose at Ernst & Young had their laptop stolen leaving the thieves with unencrypted access to personal data on more than 240,000 customers of Hotels.com. This is a customer screw up of the first order. It is also a huge competitive screw up. Online travel retailers live and die on their data - conversion numbers, price competitiveness, product spread, destination growth rates etc. While not underplaying the disaster in giving away customer data, if I was in the Hotels.com analytics group I would be just as concerned about the threat of my competitors finding out key metrics on performance. As for Ernst & Young - what the hell kind of encryption are they
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Received a note that former Expedia Europe product superstar Ciprian Morar has joined the TotalStay Group (totalstay and hotelpronto). Ciprian has spent the few last years working on his consultancy LAE Ltd after three years at Expedia. This is a fantastic catch for Total Stay. I still to this day do not understand why Expedia let Ciprian leave the building.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Bezurk has announced a new distribution deal with Yahoo! Singapore. Good news for Craig and Martin but Bezurk have a tough job ahead. I believe in the comparative shopping model they have adopted. Kayak and Sidestep have proven the model and the VCs agree. But Asia is going to be tougher and not just because of the usual language and currency issues. To succeed you need lots of online advertising, differentiated inventory sources that can be brought together and viable affiliate income streams from local players. In Asia you miss out on affiliate income and therefore the inventory from Wotif, Mytrip/Rakuten Travel and asiatravel (in declining importance). It is good to see distribution deals signed and a few internal issues cleaned up - but Craig and Martin will have to close few more inventory deals for Bezurk to make it.
Monday, June 19, 2006
The more Sensis tries to pretend it does not think like it's parent Telstra, the more it proves that it does. Gostay.com.au was launched both online and in a delivered to the home directory. That's right millions of expensive old world hard copy books delivered round Australia as part of an online launch. Even better, the deals in the book and the deals online are different. The book deals are little more than a copy and paste from the accommodation section of the yellowpages and the online deal are exactly a copy and paste from AOT's needitnow. So that is a mismatching of online and offline strategy combined with no product differentiation with another player in the market place - sounds like a true Telstra offering.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
The market clearly believes that Wotif.com (ASX:WTF) is worth more than AU$650mm. Boggling results for a company with a projected profit of A$15.7, margins of only 11% (10% commission plus booking fee), only one language, dominance in only one market and a growth strategy hinging on the Asian and South American markets. Don't get me wrong I love these guys. Graeme, Robbie, Andrew et al are smart and established online travel in Australia. I have no doubt or question their profitability but I do question their growth plans and their multiple. Asia will be much harder to crack than they think. Mytrip.net/Rakuten Travel currently own Japan and ctrip, eLong and others are making China their own (well mainly but more posts on that later). As Bloomerg point out they are trading at multples well in-excess of online businesses with stronger margins and greater geographic penetration such as Expedia. Mixing acronyms and float codes - WTF WTF.
I am a recovering Lawyer turned online travel agent now Internet investor (linkedin profile). I spent four years as a lawyer specialising in Internet, Telco, New Media and IT commercial transactions. From there I spent almost six years deep inside online travel for first Expedia and then Cendant (TDS now Travelport). Recently I returned to my corporate development roots to join Daniel Petre and Alison Deans at netus. By way of disclosure netus owns ~ 20% of Travel.com.au who also operate Lastminute locally so I will (try to) avoid any undue positive comments about these sites
Basic tenet of online retail - not just travel - is to get your URL to work properly. Qantas took a long time to launch an online hotel play and has spent a fortune offline telling us how ReadyRooms was the perfect choice for consumers. Strangely the URL www.readyrooms.com does not go to the site homepage. It does not even contain an automatic re-direct. At the time of this post it was a blank page with the sentence "For Readyrooms.com.au click here". Open Note to Qantas - the best un-kept secret to online travel is for the URL to go to your home page so that customers can find you easily. Side Note to Qantas - even fixing the link may not be enough.
It seems Cendant/Travelport have finally pulled the plug on the terminal Lodging.com. Lodging has always struggled to compete with category king Hotels.com and even it's Cendant/Travelport brothers and sisters such as HotelClub. It is strange that the URL does not automatically redirect to sister site Orbitz . Makes not sense to give users an option. Lodging.com was always a two-bit player with poor tech, zero brand recognition and good but not-good-enough inventory. It's
always sad to see a site go time was up a long time ago. RIP but unlikely to be missed.
Webjet's announcement of a "new" online hotel booking engine received a lot a press in Australia. Webjet first launch Bookabed in mid 2003 so no idea how they can call this either a launch or a new site. The huge valuation of Wotif post float has clearly re-excited David and team at Webjet on the potential for hotel focused businesses. Bookabed's failure first time round was due to poor inventory and insufficient marketing to take on Wotif and the other Australian market leaders Lastminute.com.au and RatesToGo. The only difference we can see so far from the announcement is the addition of S8 inventory. That is not going to be enough to change the fortunes of this not-so-new player. It will get lost in the noise of Lastminute's continued fightback and RatesToGo's continued decline.