Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday's Travel InsideOut

Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt has a pet peeve: Online travel companies, he claims, have done little to improve the user experience. A just-released report that he authored, Using Digital Channels to Calm the Angry Traveler, takes off on that theme of consumer unease with booking travel online. Orbitz’s Total Price on hotels and the TripAdvisor Fees estimator notwithstanding, the online travel set has much work to do to make Harteveldt -- and online customers -- happy.

New York Times: Worst Part of a Trip May Be Booking It on the Web: If you dreaded sitting down at your computer the last time you made travel arrangements or felt frustrated by all the time and effort it took to sort through pages of results for flights and hotels, join the crowd.

A new report, to be released Tuesday by Forrester Research, found that far from embracing the do-it-yourself era, many consumers were fed up with the complicated process of planning and booking travel. Read more


There indeed appears to be life for Orbitz after air-booking fees. The online travel company posted a profit in the second quarter by increasing air volume, cutting marketing and other expenses, and focusing on search-engine optimization to wrangle free conversions that accrue right to the bottom line.

Travel Weekly: Orbitz reverses Q2 results with a $10 million profit: Orbitz Worldwide reported net income of $10 million in the second quarter, compared with a $5 million loss a year earlier.

The company’s revenue plunged 18.6%, to $188 million, but Orbitz achieved second-quarter profitability because it slashed operating expenses by 23.1%. Read more


If there’s one thing that many airlines can’t stand, it is a good scrape. Well, just as American Airlines did in the U.S., Ryanair in Europe is on a campaign to stop search engines from combing its website for fares. AA was successful and stopped the scraping. Ryanair is hoping for similar results.

Travolution: Another scraping case for Ryanair lawyers: Travelviva, an online German travel business, is the latest “screen-scraping ticket tout” to face legal action from Ryanair in the Irish courts. Read more


Expedia Inc. began leveraging its SeatGuru unit to display seat reviews in the flight-booking path on Taking a page or two from the hotel-review trend, the move provides some momentum toward expanding user-generated content into the airline sector. The writer below seems to have missed the fact that Expedia owns TripAdvisor/SeatGuru, but what’s the big deal about sharing a flight review or two among friends.

TravelDailyNews: New exclusive partnership of with SeatGuru: customers can now select the best airline seats, based on user generated reviews from real flyers, thanks to a new exclusive partnership with TripAdvisor's SeatGuru, the Web's most comprehensive source for airline information. The partnership, announced, integrates SeatGuru flyer reviews of airplane seats into the seat maps for most flights sold on This development marks the first time user-generated airline content is available on an online travel booking site. The availability of SeatGuru's reviews allows customers to travel more comfortably by helping them select better airplane seats, such as those with additional legroom, and avoid bad seats, such as those with limited recline. Read more


Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line plan to reposition ships outside Alaska next year as they feel the pricing pinch from Alaska sailings.

Reuters/Yahoo Finance: Slumping economy hits Alaska cruise business: ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Poor economic conditions are squeezing the cruise business in Alaska, a mainstay for the state's seasonal tourism business, hurting leading ship operators Carnival Corp & Plc (CCL.L) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL.N) (RCL.OL). Read more


Travel InsideOut is a Dennis Schaal Blog daily feature. Get a thorough-going look at the day's travel industry top and tangentially interesting stories. Feel free to comment on them below.

Travel InsideOut is Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis Schaal. All rights reserved.


Henry Harteveldt said...


Thanks for mentioning our new report. I'd just like to clarify that the report isn't about -my- pet peeve, but rather what we at Forrester have learned from our ongoing Consumer Technographics research of US online leisure travelers.


Dennis Schaal said...

Point taken, Henry. You phrased the dynamic in a much better way than I did.

Still, I think a lot of people working at the online travel companies would take exception to your point that they've basically been asleep at the wheel when it comes to improving the user experience.

After all, the online travel planning and booking experience is a much different one than performing online banking or buying 100 shares of Apple.

The other day I tried to price online a one-way car rental from Toronto to Montreal. Forget about it -- I had to get on the telephone for a decent answer.

Travel, as you know, is a different beast than other forms of e-commerce, and it is becoming a more complex product all the time.

Still, we are in agreement that the user experience must improve. It's going to take a helluva lot of effort -- and I'm not very optimistic about the prospects in the short term.

Kevin Fliess said...


I haven't read your full report yet but I'm going to. It's clearly right up our alley.
I wonder how much of the consumer frustration has to deal with the fragmentation that exists in the market. I mean, if my mother in law is sitting at her computer, where does she even begin planning and booking? Google, Expedia, The NY Times, LonelyPlanet, TravelMuse (hopefully), Bing?

The potential "on ramps" to the process are nearly infinite. The paradox of choice tells us that the more options people have the harder it is for them to make a decision.

This overwhelming array of choices does not exist in banking (I have one bank), books / apparel (amazon), used goods (ebay), DVD rental (netflix)...

User experience is undeniably important. But I believe that data and process fragmentation is also a huge contributing factor to consumer dissatisfaction.

At TravelMuse we're working hard to make the entire web accessible from within our planning experience so that the user doesn't have to "alt-tab" there way around the net.

You can create a trip and then browse to your hearts content from within our planner with out ever losing context. When you find cool stuff, you can save it and share it.

We think this model -- where *the web is the platform* is the way to move forward. Couple that with a ultra-simple, work-flow driven planning process and you have a foundation that we can build upon.


Henry Harteveldt said...

Kevin, interesting and valid point about the multiple "on ramps" for travel (also a great way to put that). I agree with you: There are so many ways to research and plan a trip, and the quality and utility of these sites can very greatly.

You've given me something more to think about!