“Book It” Will Spark Travel Value Engines

Book It, the oh-so-clever service from Short’s Travel, is a game changer.

Book It makes the “Shop anywhere, but book it here” concept practical for corporate travelers.

Travelers can use any website to find an itinerary and fare they like, then send that flight info to Short’s via e-mail.

The Book It system looks up the traveler’s corporate profile, presents relevant travel policies, applies the corporate discount, and with 3 clicks from the traveler, books the flight.

This “Shop anywhere, but book it here” model is incredibly powerful.  It eliminates Continue reading

Travel Search Innovation – the Next Breakthrough

My, what a contrast in travel innovation. The first two presenters at today’s PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit were Hipmunk and Evature. Both focus on simplifying the travel search process. Pay attention to the implications for corporate travel.

Hipmunk is focusing on de-cluttering the results of a traditional travel search.  It integrates air and Amtrak rail options into flight searches, and combines hotels with AirBnB results. Hotels are presented with geo-heat maps to highlight shopping, dining and vice (really). Beautifully done.

Evature says hooey on traditional travel search – too many point and clicks, radio buttons, sliders, etc.  Solution?  Semantic search, aka free (unformatted) text.  “Summer beach vacation for about $600 per person”  Think about how time-consuming that search is in today’s OTA world.  Same for business – typing  “Day trip to Chicago next Tuesday” has to be easier than getting those parameters into a self-booking tool.  And yes, Evature accepts speech, just like Siri.

So Hipmunk is simplifying the structured travel search process, while Evature is handling the complexity of simple travel searches. A fascinating contrast in travel innovation.  Who will win?

My prediction: Free text/free speech trumps structured search.  Speaking is easier than typing, especially in a mobile world.  Imagine a corporate booking tool that uses Evature or Siri-based search capability.  That will be a true next-generation breakthrough in the self-booking space.

I wonder who will be the first to bring speech-based search to the corporate travel market?

(Update: The day after this post, Evature was named as the grand winner by judges at the Travel Innovation Summit)

Watch the full set of travel innovation presentations by registering for free here: http://pcwi.phocuswright.com/PC11-online-ticket.html\

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Direct Connect By Google – Oh Yes

It’s a simple formula. Google Flight Search + Airlines’ Hunger for Direct Connect = Trouble for GDSs.

You may think Google Flight Search is just another meta search tool.  I think it is a major step in a campaign to build direct connections between airlines and travelers. Google Flight Search is GDS Bypass personified.

Google sees the GDSs as fortresses, producing hundreds of millions of captive airline searches beyond the reach of any search engine. Searches that need to be freed. Searches that should have the right to be completed directly with the supplier. Searches that in their basic form can be served up quite nicely with Google Flight Search.

But the campaign is far from over.  Airline products are Continue reading

Innovative Boarding Method Could Save Big Bucks

Who says that innovation requires fancy new technology?  Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist, figured out a much faster way for passengers to board an airplane.  OK, so he did use a computer to model the problem, but the solution is elegantly simple.

Have a look at this demo in a 72-seat fuselage:

This article reports his modeling showed that even random boarding is faster than block boarding, something Southwest figured out a long time ago. Mr. Steffen estimates that his faster method of boarding could save a carrier more than $100 million a year, presumably from more efficient use of aircraft and less ground and crew time.

Hat tip to Frank Schnur for noting this on his LinkedIn page.

New Types of Hotel Rates Ahead

Let’s face it, it’s just a matter of time before hotels start offering non-refundable rates to corporations.  And you thought the hotel RFP process was already a pain in the butt.

Just wait until buyers have to try comparing a 10-day advance booking for a 20% discount at one property to a Continue reading

Why Hotels Need Bar Codes

Talk to anybody who has tried to clean up corporate hotel data, and you’ll know they hate doing it. It’s a pain in the butt to take a company’s hotel booking data from its TMC, and merge it with the company’s paid hotel data from its corporate card.

The first and arguably hardest step is to normalize the hotel identities. Somehow, you have to recognize that a credit card transaction at the “Marriott Courtyard in Salt Lake” should be tied to the reservation made at the “Courtyard by Marriott in Saltlake City”.

The variation in hotel names, as captured by the travel agencies, GDSs and credit card providers, is nothing short of maddening. And we’re not Continue reading

Travel Booking Tool Goes Gaming

Wondering where “gamification” will show up in your travel program?  Have a look at SERKO’s  self-booking tool for a peek at the future:

Darrin Grafton, SERKO’s CEO, designed his booking tool’s behavior reward module to Continue reading

TIILTS: Socially Aware Reservations

There’s got to be a way to cut through all the clutter when it comes to travel-related offers.  One solution may be to create socially aware offers tied to what’s known about the traveler.

Start with  a booked (or just planned) date and destination.  Combine that with the traveler’s socially-accessible profile. Assume the traveler selects a persona or trip type, such as “Business + client entertainment”, or “Family vacation”, “Romantic getaway”.   Presume the traveler has tied some preferences to each persona.

Together, these elements form the Social Reservation.  Put that in the cloud, and let suppliers have a look!

No doubt, given the ever-improving analytics of travel marketers, we’d see more on-target offers presented. Think Groupon and Google Offers brought to your social reservation’s doorstep.

Since the reservation is now social, Continue reading

TIILTS: Making Traveler Profiles Social

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy way for updating your traveler profile?  Regardless of which travel agencies, online sites or airlines you use?  A place where any travel supplier could – with your permission – access your most current profile data and use it as needed?

Hello, Facebook!  Why not hang a module on Facebook where you could Continue reading

TIILTS: Policy Points for Good Self-Bookings

TIILTS stands for Travel Innovations I’d Like To See.  You’ll see quite a few more of these in the weeks to come. This first one deals with corporate self-booking tools.

There’s a trend toward empowering corporate travelers when it comes to making their travel arrangements. Why not swim with this tide? Why not create a positive reward, rather than a negative consequence, for travelers who are about to pull the trigger on a travel purchase?

I’d like to see companies reward travelers for doing the right things. Before you say “No way – employees are expected to do that in the first, middle and last place!”, take a breath and hear me out.

What is one of the biggest obstacles to travel policy compliance? You got it – Frequent Flyer Points.  These loyalty schemes work really well, so why not take a page from the suppliers and put the concept to work for you buyers?

Here’s a mock-up of what a points-driven self-booking tool might look like (click on the image for a better view):

The keys are that the traveler gets very clear reinforcement of the desired booking behavior, the reward associated with it,  his current status, and what it takes to get to the next level.  There are lots of variations on this, but you  get the idea – a way-easy element to build right into the point of sale when – and where –  it matters most. Continue reading