Travelocity has become the latest online partner for Viator Inc., an Australian company that provides travel destination product distribution, a move illustrating Viator’s increased focus on the online travel market.
Since last March, when it secured its first major U.S. Web deal with Philadelphia-based Rosenbluth Interactive to provide leisure travel content and web delivery systems to Biztravel.com, a full-service site for business travelers, and Travelution.com, its leisure travel site, Viator has been successful in attracting major players in the online travel world.
Early on, Viator had focused heavily on serving the travel agent community through partnerships with GDSs. In fact, Viator entered the U.S. market through a partnership with Sabre to provide tour booking through its Agent Explorer platform in mid-1999 and set up its U.S. base in San Francisco. The company formally introduced its U.S. operations in September 2000 at the ASTA 70th World Travel Congress in Las Vegas, focusing on providing “the things you do when you get there” for online and brick-and-mortar travel sellers.
Since then, Viator has signed on with Worldspan to provide product through its Go! platform and with Galileo to offer travel destination product through its e-Agent Internet portal.
“Traditionally, researching and booking destination activities has been a time-consuming process for many travel agents,” said Galileo`s Terry Vaughn, director, leisure and rail sales and marketing. “With Galileo e-Agent and Viator`s content, travel agents can offer a value-add commission-based service at the same time as providing a world of options to their customers.”
While the GDSs have been expanding their Web-based offerings with Viator, Cuthbert believes that in the short term travel Web sites will provide the big payoff for its travel and tour partners.
“I think we have a good understanding of what’s happening there in the marketplace and frankly that is that the GDSs are having difficulty getting their agency base to start using their platforms, Cuthbert says. “So it’s not so much that they’re not interested in buying our content, they just never get to our content because they’re not using Agent Explorer, they’re not using the Go! platform at least not in the volumes that the GDSs have expected.”
Just over a year after it launched its US business, and with increased focus on the online travel business, Viator scored big with a relationship with Expedia that allows users of the site to book sightseeing tours, and event and attraction offerings like a Napa Valley wine tour, a visit to Universal Studios Los Angeles or tickets to a Broadway show.
This March, Viator won its first hotel deal with Wyndham International. Wyndham will integrate its destination product into its Web site and allow customers to book tickets to New Orleans` French Quarter, Los Angeles` Universal Studios and Boston`s famous haunts - among other attractions - before arriving at their destination.
“We don’t think there is anyone else that aggregates this content on a continental basis for North America or on global basis ... so that’s why we have been able, I guess, to license the content to such direct competitors as, say, Expedia and Travelocity, who, frankly, both feature our content in much the same way on their sites as it is on Sabre and Worldspan and now Galileo,” Cuthbert said. “So it’s not the type of thing that will help our partners differentiate, but it is the type of thing travelers are going to buy when the get there anyway, so you’re not going to make any money selling the airline ticket, if you can make a ten percent commission selling a $200 tour, you definitely ought to do that.”
Its latest deal will enable Travelocity customers to view the most popular activities at their selected destination and make reservations directly on the site through Viator. As part of its arrangement, Travelocity will acquire a small equity stake in the company.
“Our partnership with Travelocity reflects where the on-line customer is currently at: satisfied with the systems that offer airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars but now looking for more,” Cuthbert said. “The on-line buyer is now looking for sites that allow them to shop and book the things they do when they reach their destination. The approach Viator has taken with Travelocity is to pre-select the most popular tours and attractions in destination cities, and to make these easy to look at and book right on the site.”