Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Orbitz Engages in Media-Network Building with Lodging.com Rebirth

Orbitz Worldwide recently brought Lodging.com out of mothballs and is engaging in some nation-building.

Or, should I more aptly say, some media-network building.

To understand what Orbitz is attempting, think the TripAdvisor Media Network, which has been clicking its way to success on a global scale for its Expedia Inc. parent.

Lodging.com, founded in 1995, acquired by Orbitz ancestor Cendant in 2002, and all but retired as a URL until recently, is part of the OWW Away Network. That network is part of Orbitz's hoped-for answer to TripAdvisor's gains in the media business.

"The relaunch [of Lodging.com] reflects Orbitz Worldwide’s focus on monetizing under-utilized assets in its portfolio of travel brands and better monetization of its non-transacting traffic," said OWW spokesman Brian Hoyt.

That "non-transacting traffic" element is key as Orbitz, like other online travel companies, is hoping to monetize the legions of lookers who don't book. The solution, as the OTCs see it, is facilitated search or even metasearch.

The soft relaunch of Lodging.com, which uses facilitated search to promote the booking engines of Travelocity, hotels.com, Expedia.com, Kayak, Mobissimo, Priceline, OWW brands and others, follows the relaunch of another retired OWW brand, Trip.com.

Also part of the Away Network, Trip.com is a travel search/media site for flights, hotels, cars, vacation packages and cruises.

While Trip.com offers the full gamut of travel inventory, sister brand Lodging.com has a hotel focus.

In addition to providing facilitated search for hotels through partnerships using the booking engines of all the aforementioned OTCs and metasearch companies, Lodging.com partnered with Vast.com, a vertical search company, to offer vacation rentals, bed and breakfasts, inns and campgrounds, Hoyt said.

"The relaunch of Lodging.com will test how consumers respond to various travel search offerings, and its user interface is likely to change over time," Hoyt said. "The site will remain in beta until its functionality has been thoroughly tested among consumers."

Asked whether OWW was considering a metasearch launch, in addition to the one-booking-engine-at-a-time approach inherent in facilitated search, Hoyt replied: "For now, we are focused on beta testing a facilitated search platform blended with Vast.com's listings for vacation rentals, campgrounds and B and Bs."

The "for now" part is important. Certainly the strategic thinkers at Orbitz have pondered the launch of metasearch, as Expedia has done through TripAdvisor flights and Travelzoo has done with Fly.com.

Orbitz has a long way to go to compete with TripAdvisor. Other than the Orbitz brand itself, OWW doesn't have a brand, in its Away Network or elsewhere, that can compete at the moment with the TripAdvisor brand.

But, the resurrection of Lodging.com and Trip.com are huge steps in the right direction for OWW. Together with OWW's emphasis on building its hotel business, the Away Network initiative is another signal that Orbitz, under CEO Barney Harford, is beginning to get its act together.


Mega, Not Meta, Move: Orbitz Enters Search Business

Orbitz and Kayak: Perfect Together?

Is Orbitz Poised for a Priceline-like Comeback?


Aaron Katz said...

Compete's data indicate growing traffic for igougo and trip.com since Travelocity and Orbitz, respectively, started running pop-under ads driving shoppers to the sites. A little early to tell about trip.com, but igougo traffic is up 48% for July year-over-year.

Over the same period, away.com traffic is down 60%.

Dennis Schaal said...

Aaron: Do you have any more background on their use of pop-under ads? When did they start using them? Trip.com is a new stop, but had igougo used them previously? I remember some litigation about pop-ups.... What do you make of away.com's traffic drop? Does it have anything to do with Trip.com?