Users Google Hotels More Than Flights • Orbitz Integrated App • Kayak Same Day Mobile Booking • Priceline Tweaks Blind Booking • Momondo Flight Search Redesign • The Great Orbitz Mac Brouhaha • Hotels Fumble Pricing Transparency • Redesigning the Airline Food Cart • Travel Aspirations: Top Budget Destinations
PhoCusWright: Travelers Use Search More for Hotels than Flights
Prospective travelers spend more time researching hotels than flights on search engines like Google. But OTAs worry more about Google taking flight share rather than hotel share. The reason is that flight search is relatively simple; once the traveler’s basic parameters are met, the decision is clear and the traveler enters a conversion funnel directly from the Google Flight Search booking button, which in most cases leads directly to an airline site. I tried Google Flight Search myself. It’s extremely fast and I can verify that OTAs are probably getting very few bookings from people who enter the conversion funnel from Google Flight Search. Everyone who works at an OTA like Expedia owes it to their job to try out Google Flight Search to get a full understanding of the competitive threat.
On the other hand, Hotels involve a longer, more complex search and the traveler is more likely to click through to a richer information source before booking.
Orbitz’s Integrated Travel App
The New York Times describes the experience of using the new Orbitz app as “seamless,” unlike Expedia’s, which requires users to enter their data repeatedly.
Kayak Joins Same-day Mobile Booking Crowd
The same-day mobile hotel booking business is getting crowded with Kayak joining the fray. Kayak says savings on same day bookings average 25% and higher.
Priceline Tweaks Blind Hotel Booking
Priceline was a key pioneer of the idea of blind booking, in which you only find out what hotel you’ll be staying at after you bid and pay. Their new express deals service allows travelers to specify amenities they can’t live without prior to paying. This ensure that the hotel they book is a good fit. Unlike Priceline’s original model, no bidding is involved. The increased flexibility unfortunately comes with a higher (but still discounted) price and a smaller inventory than their original offering.
Momondo Flight Search Redesigned. Has “Second Generation” Search
Momondo’s new flight search is said to use social and consumer data to improve search. They claim this is their first step toward semantic search although the current implementation is clearly not that. Another feature, which they dub a “convenience balancer” of price versus convenience, sounds a lot like Hipmunk’s “Agony” ranking. The site is certainly colorful if a bit cluttered.
Final Words on The Great Orbitz Mac Brouhaha
There has already been a lot of discussion about the brouhaha that has arisen over the Wall Street Journal’s article on Orbitz’s targeting Mac users with more expensive hotel offers. There’s a great reader comment to the WSJ article that sums up the discussion I’ve seen inside Expedia and elsewhere:
John Brewer: …I think this is a brilliant example of smart tactical marketing, poor strategic marketing…
Original WSJ Article:
WSJ side note on factors Orbitz uses for targeting
Orbitz has been forced into damage control mode by the response to the Wall Street Journal article. Orbitz CEO Barney Harford has tweeted a link to a series of blogs he wrote for USA Today Travel explaining their research and customer targeting in some detail [I summarized them here]. It sounded very interesting then. I’m sure the folks at Orbitz didn’t anticipate the blowback they’re currently experiencing.
There’s a lesson to be learned here for any business-to-consumer firm. Consumers are frequently suspicious and resentful of any experience that results in one group being treated different than another, even if the result is advantageous for everyone. This can happen with targeted offers, A/B tests and personalization. It helps to clearly communicate that people might receive differential experiences and allow customers to control personalization parameters to match their actual intent on each buying occasion.
Hotels Tripped up by Pricing Transparency
This Tnooz article points out the contradictions in many hotels’ revenue management strategies. Internet resources, particularly travel meta-search engines, enable consumers to quickly discover the best rates on offer for a given hotel. Yet many hotels, as a matter of policy, will not allow their staff to make direct bookings at the best available price. They unwisely maximize their average room rate rather than total profit and then blame OTAs for cutting into their profits. The bottom line is that today, hotels can no longer rely on hidden information to eke out extra revenue from uninformed customers.
An Airline Food Cart That Doesn’t Block the Aisle
This is a clever concept. Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?
Travel Aspirations: 2012’s Top Budget Travel Destinations
Slideshow featuring Budget Travel’s world class destinations for 2012. Whether due to the currency crises (Greece, Portugal, the Azores and Belize), political transitions (Egypt) or no apparent reason at all, there are some beautiful places to visit on a budget this year.