GDS Full-Content and Social Media: I've written in Travel Weekly how GDS full-content is a sham these days, given the airlines' full-throttle approach to introducing optional services. Although the airlines are testing filing these products with ATPCO, many of these services are still the exclusive offerings of airlines' websites.
So, it occurred to me that Twitter, too, already is further disintermediating the GDSs and travel agencies, or at least giving airlines a speedy and effective tool to go direct to their customers. The number of special fares and promotions that you can find on Twitter, with the airlines funneling consumers directly to their websites for inventory that often is unavailable in the GDSs, is numbing.
Twitter Metasearch: And that brings me to Twitter Metasearch, an application that a developer somewhere already must be fine-tuning. In the social media realm, we already have ExecTweets, a service that aggregates the tweets of CEOs and other C-Suite executives.
So, someone should create an application to aggregate all of the promotions and special offers on Twitter by industry vertical.
We might call the travel vertical on Twitter, TwitYak or KayTwit. You choose.
But, an aggregation of airline and other travel promotions like Priceline's now-ended $50 hotel-coupon offer and Connect by Hertz's one-year free membership offer for Twitter followers, would be a winning proposition.
Southwest, JetBlue, United: Speaking of airlines, some obviously understand social media and others are in the early stage and are coming up short. In her podcast on the IAG Blog, social media consultant Susan Black reminds me of an anecdote that Southwest founder Herb Kelleher recounted at the recent TravelCom conference in Atlanta. Kelleher said Southwest indeed is active on Twitter and sees it in part as a customer-service vehicle.
He said Southwest has seen a drop-off in the number of customer complaints to the Dept. of Transportation because Southwest has been able to deal with these issues directly with customers through Twitter.
Meanwhile, I took a look yesterday at JetBlue's tweets and compared the volume to those of United Airlines, which admittedly has dabbled with Twitter only since mid-March. JetBlue had 11 tweets yesterday, and United had a mere 14 in total since March 18. C'mon United. Jump in! This is an opportunity to improve the image of your brand, which could use some improving.
Expedia: Here's some interesting information about Expedia as it assesses what do about the $6 million per month impact from its eliminating or reducing, respectively, its air- and hotel-booking fees.
Expedia's booking-fee nixing terminates at the end of the month, and most people think the online travel agency will extend it.
It turns out, Expedia tells me, that its points of sale in Germany, France, New Zealand and India, as well as sister company Hotwire, also offer flights sans booking fees. Expedia.de in Germany eliminated its air-booking fees in April, although Expedia says the actions by its global points-of-sale did not take place in the context of a broad, coordinated initiative.
Well, according to Expedia's latest 10-Q filing, it gets 15 percent of its global revenue from airline tickets and 60 percent of its total revenue from transactions involving hotel sales. So, it is easy to see why eliminating the fees on air is less of an issue for Expedia than trimming its hotel fees, a move it made in reaction to an Orbitz initiative.
And, in the SEC filing, Expedia notes that it is trying to diversify its offerings beyond air and hotel by expanding its "car rental, destination services, cruise and other product offerings."
For years, online travel agencies have been bent on diversifying beyond air and into hotels, and now the pressures are coming to bear on the hotel business, so Expedia, at least, is looking to more fertile pastures.
It indeed would be ironic if analysts start berating the OTAs in the coming years that they are too dependent on the hotel business.
And, Expedia also concedes, in a way, a point that Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt has been hammering home as of late: That the OTAs have fallen down on innovation, with each almost resembling a clone of the other.
Expedia states: "Differentiation among the various website offerings has narrowed dramatically in the past several years, and the travel landscape has grown extremely competitive, with the need for competitors to generally differentiate their offerings on features other than price. Newer competitive entrants such as “meta search” companies have in some cases been able to introduce differentiated features and content compared with the legacy online travel agency companies..."
Notice that Expedia refers to "the legacy online travel agency companies." I haven't heard that term used before in reference to the OTAs.
Are the OTAs getting to be "old school" with the metasearch engines and companies like TripIt and TravelMuse passing them by?
TripAdvisor: Part of Expedia's diversification efforts include hitching its star to TripAdvisor's global media business.
In the first quarter, the revenue of TripAdvisor, which just launched in China, grew 19 percent to $86 million. And, its OIBA (Operating Income Before Amortization) climbed 36 percent to $48 million.
With those kind of margins for TripAdvisor, this seems more like a Fat Tuesday than a random-thoughts-Friday.