|by Bhanu Chopra, May 2005
Recently Travel search or meta search has become a hot topic. Both the industry experts and wall street analyst predict this as the next hot topic in vertical search engine technology. So much so there are dedicated events on this topic that are being organized by Phocus Wright Travdex (Dallas May 2005) and EyeForTravel Travel Search(Philadelphia June 2005).
In this debate whether they will erode market share for Online Travel
Agents, there is no question that they would challenge the current profitability
margins for Online Travel Agents. Now to discuss this debate, it is fair
to understand this debate from the perspective of the consumer and the
Some other comments
"In today's healthier economic climate where demand for travel is high, Travel Search websites like Kayak certainly appear to have the upper hand when it comes to finding price comparisons between travel suppliers. However, if or when the travel market slumps, travel suppliers will only be too keen to go back to the traditional on-line travel agencies to help stimulate the market. Travel Search may represent a cheaper cost of sale in the short run, but the reality is that suppliers will have to open up distribution channels at some point, and this is when travel agents represent the best value and choice for customers.
From a consumer's point of view, although Trave Search is excellent, particularly when searching for a commoditized product like short-haul flights, there is the danger that these sites provide too much choice, particularly in the hotel market. I liken it to dining out: Some restaurants have a menu that is 10 pages long and offer everything from around the world. Suddenly, it becomes very difficult to choose a dish. Other restaurants have a menu 1 page long, but you know instantly what you want to order. Travel agents know what sells, and although providing a broad range is important, having the depth of knowledge about your core products is what really matters. It is this which differentiates travel agents from travel search." Jamie Crain Commercial Manager
In summary, there is no doubt that the Online Travel Agents model would have to evolve and embrace value additions such as Dynamic packaging in order to be able to differentiate the product they sell. Travel Search holds a lot of promise and it has to be seen how it affects the current Online Travel Agents model.
|Also See:||Going Beyond Search Engine Optimization; Converting Looks into Bookings / Bhanu Chopra / October 2004|