Last week the online travel industry`s top sites, Travelocity and Expedia, added new features designed to help improve the consumers` online shopping experience and offer more flexible pricing options.
Coinciding with its fifth birthday, Travelocity introduced its GoodBuy program, which builds upon its existing Value Program. Within Good Buy, Travelocity offers a single search path from its regular fare search engine, and adds two kinds of negotiated fares—those that display airlines and schedules, and others that don`t immediately reveal the airline or the schedule but offer deeper discounts.
Travelocity`s GoodBuy program adopts a similar opaque pricing model as Hotwire and rivals Priceline, which has been a partner of the site.
“We`re going ahead with our own product because we can,” said Travelocity President and CEO Terry Jones. “We`re big enough now and our customers want to shop in one place.”
Rivaling Travelocity’s Good Buy, Expedia is offering Bargain Fares, special negotiated deals with 20 airlines, serving both domestic and international destinations. Designed for travelers who are price sensitive and have flexible schedules, consumers are able to view the fares as often or as frequently as they wish.
Also adopting an opaque pricing model similar to Hotwire, Bargain Fares builds upon its Expert Searching and Pricing (ESP) platform and is integrated into the primary search results. Flights are guaranteed to depart between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. (local time) and all purchases are non-cancelable. After purchasing the ticket, full details, including the airline and flight times, are disclosed in the traveler’s confirmation page.
“What sets Expedia apart is our complete suite of services and our ability to offer the right trip to any type of traveler, from the most time-sensitive to the most price sensitive,” said Dhiren Fonseca, vice president of sales for Expedia, Inc. “Expedia Bargain Fares are a key part of that suite—delivering great deals to very price-focused travelers, and integrating them alongside the search results.”
link name=“expe”>Expedia , which has been working to diversify its business beyond being a ticket ATM, also is reporting success with its merchant model with record hotel bookings. Expedia has become the first online travel agency to book more than one million room nights sold in less than three months. Comparatively, it took Expedia three years to sell its first million room nights. Since launching in October 1996, Expedia has sold a total of over 5.3 million room nights.
As a result of its acquisition of Travelscape.com
last year Expedia acts as a wholesaler, negotiating net prices with the suppliers. Expedia now offers 75,000 lodging options across its properties including specialty lodging, such as villas, condos, vacation homes and bed and breakfasts, with discounts of up to 70% off standard rates.
“Our objective over the past year has been to diversify our business to become a major seller of everything travel, including air, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages and cruises,” Expedia President and CEO Richard Barton. “Through technology and inventory innovations, we are accomplishing that goal.”
Although Travelocity is not adopting a merchant model, it too is attempting to diversify its business with increased hotel and vacation offerings. Through an agreement with Hotel Reservations Network, Travelocity will provide condominiums for the first time. Hotel and condominium GoodBuy offers low rates and availability for Travelocity customers at more than 2,500 properties in more than 125 cities worldwide, even when a city may be sold out.
Last week Travelocity also launched Travelocity Vacations in an attempt to build its own national vacation brand. Through Travelocity Vacations, the online travel leader can offer online booking for vacation packages to more than 800 destinations. Previously, members could build a vacation by piecing together air, car and hotel separately, and they still can. Travelocity Vacations leverages its relationships with air, car and hotel suppliers, members to assemble their own vacation packages at lower, package rates.
To celebrate its first five years in business, Travelocity also introduced several other new programs. In addition to GoodBuy and Travelocity Vacations, it has introduced Travelocity Preferred Traveler, a travel club designed for the online traveler that includes perks and discounts worldwide; Option Finder, which advises members about alternate dates and cities where lower fares may be available; and a Travelocity.com branded MasterCard. “We are very excited to be celebrating five years of successful business on the Internet and once again be providing our customers with innovative product offerings designed to make their travel shopping experience easy and fun,” Jones said. “In the next five years, Travelocity plans to continue leading the online travel industry.”
Travelocity`s Preferred Traveler Program is a fee-based travel club for the leisure traveler. According to Jones, it provides special deals and offers like upgrades, airline club lounge passes and special concierge services normally available only to frequent business travelers. Option Finder includes two enhancements to Travelocity`s flight search technology. While searching for flights on Travelocity, members will have the option of choosing a mileage radius around their preferred departure airport. Additionally, while members are shopping for travel on a specific set of dates, Travelocity will automatically look at a range of dates near the customer`s specific choice to see if low fare alternatives are available. Expedia, which holds a close second market position to Travelocity, also has been diversifying its content offerings and reaching out to targeted audiences with sections dedicated to adventure travel and family travel. Most recently, Expedia has joined with a leading online source for gay and lesbian travel information, Out & About.
“This relationship with Out & About will extend Expedia.com`s targeted services to a segment of the population that travels heavily,” said Erik Blachford, senior vice president of marketing and programming at Expedia. “This is not only a smart business relationship for Expedia, but also a benefit to gay and lesbian travelers who have been searching for a full-service online travel site that meets their particular needs.” Visitors to Expedia.com can access Out & About information from selected destination guides located under the Destinations and Interests tab. Articles include recommendations for what to see and do, where to stay, play, dine, shop, exercise and more. Over the next few months, Expedia plans to add Out & About content for more than two dozen popular destinations.
“Expedia.com is setting a new standard of online service for gay and lesbian travelers,” said Billy Kolber-Stuart, editor of Out & About. “They recognize the advantage of reaching this underserved and loyal market. Coupling Expedia`s full service travel offerings with Out & About`s destination content is an enormous benefit for gay and lesbian travelers who can now explore the latest travel trends and advice, while making all of their travel plans on one Web site.”