Thursday, July 21, 2005

Forced packaging

As you probably know late last year I authored a research study on the subject of dynamic packaging. Most of the industry agrees that packaging is a major trend and that the technology behind dynamic packaging is improving. While purchasing an airline ticket at a major online site I was bewildered by the number of unnecessary screens offering packaging. This was a trip to Vegas (perhaps one of the top packaging destinations) which had some narrow flight times. For 3-4 consecutive screens, I was unable to simply complete my purchase without scrolling down to the end of the page while being bombarded by package offers. A better solution would be a simple button on the first summary screen with packaging offer, not three additional screens! Dynamic packaging should not be push packaging as by its nature often these packages don't always meet a traveler's requirements.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Online verses Offline travel reservations

I wanted to clarify my position on online verses offline travel. In a recent Travel Weekly article I was quoted: "People are going online to shop. Travel is no different. That's where the marketplace is going, and anyone who believes that things will originate with a phone call is completely out to lunch."I do stand by this statement, though it was taken a bit out of context. As clarification: My belief is that offline support will continue to be a critical part of the online transaction. During a recent engagement with a large resort company, it was estimated that 80% of the consumers who telephone the call center have been online. This is no different across all segments (hospitality, corporate travel, vacation planning). The Web should not be viewed as another channel, but the ultimate channel for consumer interfacing. The misconception that all travel will be automated with no human involvement, over estimates the ability of software to emulate the human mind. In reality, complex travel purchases whether it is a tour, cruise or multi-city international business trip, will likely require human assistance for some time. The key is where the human action comes into play and how it is integrated with the online reservation process. One need only to look at he growth of call centers for giants such as Expedia and Travelocity to see that offline support is still critical for online transactions. My friend and colleague, Philip Wolf, CEO of PhoCusWright has been talking for some time about the transformation of call centers to customer care centers. It is this integration between offline and online reservations that will make this transformation possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Future of the GDS

I wanted to take an opportunity to clear the air on my opinion of the "future of the GDS". In various articles I have been quoted as being critical on the pace of innovation of the GDS and their challenges in respect to moving to a new lower cost distribution model. I wanted to state that it is my belief that in the long term the GDS will continue to be a major force in travel distribution, despite the growth of so called GNE (GDS New Alternatives). The GDS market has been oligopoly and as such has not experienced significant technological competition, until recently. I have never questioned that each of the GDS companies are moving to more open systems. The issue is the pace of market changes and the speed by which each of these companies move their core transaction engine off the TPF mainframes and truly embrace a new open infrastructure.
The other key issue is the continued fragmentation of inventory sources, a phenomenon that conflicts with the traditional GDS single source model. Travel distributors (travel agents, TMCs, tour operators) need to gain independence from the GDS at the point of sale. Relying on GDS POS technology limits the distributors ability to access multiple sources of inventory and integrate external and internal sources of content in a seamless manner. The major TMCs (Amex, CWT , WorldTravel BTI), travel agencies (LibGO) and online wholesalers (Expedia) all have recognized the need for this POS independence and have implemented technology that access multiple sources of inventory simultaneously. The GDS are still an important part of this equation, just not the single source.