Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Meta-search and Business Travel

A lot of focus has recently been given to the meta-search engines such as Sidestep, Farechase, Kayak and Mobissimo. In fact the recent PhoCusWright Travdex conference was heavily focused on the topic of meta-search. Little attention has been given to the application of Web search technology to the business travel market. In fact there was no mention of meta-search at the recent ACTE conference. What impact will meta-search have on the business travel market? How does meta-search fit in with corporate self-booking technology. It is my belief that a segment of leisure consumers will embrace meta-search and therefore the impact of this technology will be felt on the corporate market. Travelers will use meta-search to compare prices against corporate self-booking tools and if they find better prices, this will cause some static. In a way self-booking tools that access multiple sources and use independent faring technology, such as Outtask's Cliqbook are acting as meta-search engines. The difference will be on the number and types of sources queried. The bottom line success of meta-search or multi-search corporate self-booking depends on the tool's ability to access full content (SWA, direct to supplier, multiple GDS) and provide the leisure and corporate traveler comparative shopping that is comprehensive enough that they look no further.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Business Intelligence

Having spent the last six weeks creating a BI strategy for the federal government I thought it would be an opportune time to vent a bit about the continued slow state of progress on a truly integrated travel BI solution. By definition, business intelligence (BI) is designed to provide insight into data that would normally not be apparent by generating reports. I am glad to report that there are new BI dashboards emerging in the market from major players (CWT, TRX, Hi-Mark) and smaller ones as well (Tri-Pen). The problem is the slow pace of integration across data sources and the overall continued challenges of integrating or comparing data sources. I am optimistic that a new focus on BI will emerge in the corporate travel arena which will spur competition and deliver greater value to customers. Corporate travel managers need to embrace these emerging dashboards and not view their intuitive nature as a "competitive threat". Systems that automatically identify lack of compliance, opportunity for additional negotiated agreements and recommendations in altering travel policy (rather than generating a report) are essential tools for travel management in the new era of fare simplification and the resulting drop in airline discount levels.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Resurfacing after a long absence

Over the last 8 weeks I have been swamped with two large projects and my Weblog activity took a back seat to a heavy travel schedule (on the road 80% of the time) and long 70 hour weeks. Well enough about my excuses for not writing more frequently, here are a few thoughts on some of the latest happenings in the world of travel related technology:
1) The continued focus and disputes around the GNEs - with the lead supplier advocate leaving UA to join ITA, many are quick to dismiss the whole issue of the GNEs as negotiation tactics for the next round of DCA contracts rather than a serious alternatives to the GDS. I've moderated two panels over the last few weeks (Corporate Travel World in NYC and ACTE in Vancouver) on the subject. The battle lines have been drawn and the marketing spin machines are in full gear. The GDS are painting the issue as purely economic while the GNEs talk about new technology. My take is that they are both right. The primary issue is economic, while the underlying technology is able to deliver increased functionality at a lower cost. I still believe the GNEs are for real and will have an impact.
2) Meta-Search - fad or major shift in the online travel model? I tend to fall in the middle here. I do believe the meta search engines have a role to play and will add value to the consumer who normally shops multiple sites. The key to their success is content. Without total (or perceived total) content, meta-search will have a limited impact. Most interesting to watch in this space is Kayak who have (1) licensed the ITA software engine recognizing the need to lesson the burden on the infrastructure for fare quoting (2) introduced a developer network to allow specific micro-vertical apps to be created on top of the Kayak search technology. Interesting stuff...
Well that's it for now, but I will do my best to be more conscientious about writing at least a weekly blog entry...