With Travelocity.com and Expedia.com duking it out for the consumer and business online travel dollar, sometimes it`s easy to forget about all of the other players in the huge - and still growing - market.
Forrester Research says that by 2004, more than 40 percent of online U.S. households will use the Web to book travel arrangements. The same report indicates that revenues will be more than $50 billion for the online travel industry in three years.
Of course, Forrester is touting their upcoming travel summit in March, featuring speakers from Expedia, American Airlines, and Orbitz (the airfare e-commerce site under development by a consortium of airlines).
But it`s not just Forrester watching this hot industry. A lot of readers weighed in following my Feb. 19 column on the war between Expedia.com and Travelocity.com. Some sounded off about the mess they contend with every time they go to buy a ticket online. Others offered tips on other sites that help consumers and businesses find low fares—perhaps even some sites that could help the first group of frustrated letter writers. One site was built by a guy who has made it his hobby to compare various travel sites.
“My goal is to find the most useful information in the fewest number of sites,” writes Bob Cowen, a very frequent business traveler. “I have a noncommercial Web site that has travel tips, comparisons, travel humor, editorials, a newsletter, etc.”
Bob also teaches classes for travelers in his area. The most flexible search and pricing engine (for the United States and Canada) is www.itasoftware.com, according to travel guru Bob. The site is limited to airfare searches, but does a great job on those.
Another reader recommends www.qixo.com. This shopping bot searches all manner of travel e-commerce sites for the best available fares.
I did a test search just to check it out and found that it was possible to get airfares from San Jose, Calif., to Philadelphia almost as cheaply as fares from San Francisco to Philadelphia. Most of my previous searches at Travelocity and Expedia had returned fares of a couple hundred dollars more for the same trip if I left from San Jose instead of San Francisco. Amazing!
Qixo (pronounced “kick-so”) searches sites including Travelocity, Expedia, Cheap Tickets, OneTravel, Travelscape, Southwest, Uniited, and America West. The company had plans to add more sites. (It recently added hotel searches to its arsenal of services and plans to eventually offer the same service for car rentals.) Qixo also plans to enable its service for wireless devices.
Taking my test just a step further, I decided to check out fares to Hawaii. But, alas, I did not know the airport code for Maui and Qixo couldn`t find it. Instead, it offered two possible destinations: a town in Mauritius and a town in Botswana. I decided not to book the fare.
Instead, I went to Travelocity to find out the airport code for Maui, Hawaii. (In case anyone is interested, it`s OGG.) Once I plugged that in to Qixo, I got fare quotes from a whole bunch of sites on a variety of different airlines, including Hawaiian Airlines.
Qixo may be my new favorite travel site.