Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The World is Flat

In his 2005 book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman describes the unplanned cascade of technological and social shifts that effectively leveled the economic world, and “accidentally made Beijing, Bangalore and Bethesda next-door neighbors.” I experienced this phenomenon first hand recently evaluating suppliers for a consulting engagement. When it came down to the short list of suppliers that met this DMO's requirements, two companies emerged providing the best fit for my customer's needs. Both of the companies have headquarters in the US, but have approximately 90% of their employees in Asia (India and Sri Lanka). Over last two-three years the majority of travel software companies have either outsourced part of their development to off-shore centers or formally opened branches in places like Bangalore or Saint Petersburg. Eastern Europe and Asia are not only catching up fast, but are quickly passing the US in highly skilled software engineers. To better understand the global impact of the flatting of the world phenomenon take a look at this video:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Are corporate self booking tools becoming a commodity?

I have been involved with corporate self-booking tools since their inception in the early 1990s. At that time companies such as TravelNet and TTG (now TRX) pioneered a new concept allowing business travelers to book online, but restraining their activity through policy enforcement. Now in 2007 where corporate booking tools have become a mainstream part of a good travel management program, innovation has stalled resulting in a common look and feel across vendors. Many of the corporate tools have embraced the familiar consumer matrix approach pioneered by Orbitz (and quickly copied by Expedia and Travelocity), but other emerging trends are slow to come to the marekt. This is in contrast to new consumer oriented Travel 2.0 companies such as Kayak, Farecast and Farecompare are who are blazing new territory incorporating tools such AJAX and mash-ups to change the stale booking flow common on the big OTAs, but what about the corporate market? Where is the next innovation in corporate tools? My belief is that innovation has already begun and lies in the underlying platform rather than the UI. Yes corporate tools should embrace drag and drop capabilities enabled by AJAX, but at the end of the day you still need to enter your dates, select your flights, hotel and car. How these tools integrate disparate sources and user generated reviews and content will be a space to watch in 2007.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mobile Photo Sharing

M:Metrics released some detailed stats on 3G usage that should raise a flag for all in the travel industry. If you don't know, 3G refers to the third generation wireless networks that provide more features and faster speeds than 2G networks. What caught my eye was the stat which concerns photo-sharing, which skyrockets to 45.1% monthly penetration among 3G users, up from 17.1% of non-3Gers. The bottom line is that next generation cell phone users are increasingly depending on their camera phones. What does this mean for the travel industry?

If you combine the growth of user generated content with this increased photo-sharing usage, the picture should be clear. Travel suppliers, especially hoteliers, need to be sensitive to the fact that an upset customer will not only blast the hotel at review sites such as Trip Advisor or IGUGO, but will increasingly use their cell phones to document short comings of a property augmented by real- time pictures posted to blogs or photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. The old cliche that a picture paints a thousand words says it all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Peer to Peer Computing in Travel?

First they brought us Kazza and then Skype. Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom are now working on a new peer to peer (P2P) application that is taking on TV. Their Venus project, expected to be called Joost changes the playing field again by allowing users to view video content though on demand P2P network

Is there any value of a P2P network in the travel space? Absolutely! The current trend to create a site for online travelogues is a common Travel 2.0 business model. What if the content did not need to be uploaded to a single site, but rather accessed pictures and video content housed on an individual's hard drive. Unlike the Kazza implementation, Friis and Zennstrom are working with content owners to launch Joop with targeted advertising as part of the delivery. Behavioral targeting is a major trend in Web advertising. A P2P network could deliver targeted ads based on information extracted from multiple computers. The new Joost network is based on this type of targeted advertising and a similar application could be developed for online travel.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Article for The Beat

Today, the Beat (part of ProMedia released an article I created regarding the gap between emerging technologies and the travel industry. The focus of the article is on how the corporate travel industry continues to be behind the technology adoption curve.

If you are not a subscriber to the Beat, I strongly encourage you to become a subscriber. The team at the beat is lead by Jay Campbell, Chief Content Officer. While at Business Travel News (BTN) Jay constantly pushed through the barriers within the industry to uncover the underlying key issues in the corporate travel world. At the Beat, Jay is joined by David Jonas and Mary Ann McNulty two seasoned journalists who know the industry inside and out. Jay founded the Beat just a few years ago, but it has clearly emerged as the number one source for breaking news in all sectors of the travel industry. It was my privilege to contribute this article to the Beat. Let me know if you have any feedback.