travel search

Scott Jampol– travel search/farechase
Some people are very interested in (misssed the rest)
Vajid Jamfri — Cfares– huge, lots of opportunity, the next biggest is illegal. Very fragmented, hundreds of distribution channels. How do we collect this information? You can buy a ticket to London for 2000 dollars, but you don’t know you can buy it wholesale for 500. As search engines create information for the consumer, that information is also invaluable to the supplier to dynamically find price. Try to move form UI’s to saver system to a new system (? same as all maps being on top of navtec?)

Q: how do you deal with confusion in marketplace over guarantees, etc?
Vajid: never go to sleep thinking you got the best price… no one can give you that. 20% of billions of travel are in wholesale, and you can’t get that? Can search engine provide you that? Only a search engine can revolutionize in this way.

Q: how do you blah blah (the moderator’s questions are really oblique. I think he’s talking about the relationship between airline sites and the comarison sites)
Scott: we don’t crawl without permission. Right now we look to provide value to travelers and companies.

Q: how do you sum up the relationships (between airlines and the comarison travel sites)?
Scott: right now the conversations are really positive. Right now we try to stay unbiased, we do not charge for listing, rankings are not affected. We’re working through issues around that.
Vajid: it’s all about value– the low cost carriers are beating the big guys. People are looking for expedience, they are looking for richer content, and they are looking for comprehensiveness.
Beatrice Tarka, Mobissimo— we’ve been successful working with carriers who have not wanted to be crawled before. The market evolves. Some people will change– they are in period of review. They may perceive us as a threat, since we are a new model that is beyond expedia.
Phil Carpenter — sidestep
You see changes, some people who have pulled out of expedia who will work with sidestep, or others who will do both. Looking for partners that are very partner-centric. They also want partners who have traffic– you have to be big enough to provide interesting volume levels.

Q: who are competing with? Expedia, yahoo? General engines or online agencies?
Phil– the easy money is shifting from online agencies. Companies don’t really like traditional companies, expensive way to sell. Search engine drives directly to website, allows them to build their own brand, it’s attractive to them.
Beatrice: the majority of travel spending is still offline. Radio, TV, newspaper. The first shift is to online. Companies can track directly roi. (Insert 50% of my advertising budget is wasted joke here) Right now Google’s and yahoo’s of the world are attracting a lot of that money.

Q: when you outline your offer, what kind of cost differences are there?
Beatrice: general search engines are 2-5 dollars a click, but travel engines are paid only on sale and it’s much less.
Scott: for ytravel, it’s on a search monetization model. So we surround the free results with paid results. It’s quite different. When you are talking about trust, you protect that but it’s an extremely good value proposition to suppliers.
Vajid: airlines pay 20-30 dollars for acquisition of clients traditionally. From the search engines it’s $5. A major spread. It is enough a reduction to make them profitable.

Q: traditionally online is per click, now with verticals it’s per acquisition. What does that mean… is it a temporary situation? Immature market?
Beatrice: it’s a young market. some clients want CPA (cost per action) some others want cpc, because they have advertising so every view is valuable, still others are driven by brand, so cpi may return. It’s hard to get the feeling across in a Google text ad, but an image or a video can send a rich sell, differentiate.
Phil: we think it’s very important to be flexible with advertisers, so we offer all types. Who are we as an emerging sector to tell them how to do business? The budget lies in different groups with different metrics so we work with them.

Q: How do reconcile web crawling with real time.
Beatrice; in our industry crawling is the only way to get real time– we don’t have the luxury of getting a feed. A feed would be a bad experience because it would be a day ago, things move too fast. Fare jumping happens… sometiems you can’t get the info fast enough. Maybe xml feeds but she doesn’t trust them.

Q: will screen scraping continue?
Vajim: xml feeds are starting, but the industry infrastructure is not able to, it’s built around saver system. Some progressive airlines are working on it. It may happen in the next year or so.

Q: Asking about travel planning not just selling
Scott of yahoo: we know travel planning is a very complicated and multiweek planning system. We think of it as a travel funnel, starting with inspiration, research comparison, purchase and post trip. You can offer products are all. Farechase is vertical, but yahoo travel is being integrated… say, a mapping tool that shows you what you can do near that hotel. It’s important for travel search engines to get to helping people plan and book travel.

Q: why can’t you do searches around the dates you want, + or – a few days.
Scott: we depend on what’s offered us, some airlines have it and some don’t.

Q: what incentive do suppliers have to work with one or more of you versus everyone else? How do you differentiate?
Beatrice: we are most comprehensive. Half the queries are international. We don’t spend money on ad sense etc, so we aren’t competing with hotels on search engines. We provide rare information. And the query management system. But we drive traffic– you can’t just send a query because many of the companies have old systems and queries are expensive, but we take on the cost and send only qualified leads.
Vajim: the value to the suppliers is important if you want to build a large company. The suppliers feel the expedia model is broken, too expensive to difficult. They spend too much, they have unsold inventory, and the customer is owned by the travel sites, not the supplier. They want to own the customer. Any travel engine that solves that problem will get the suppliers.
Phil: you have to provide both qualified leads and enough of them.

Q: what affiliate programs are useful?
Vajid: today there is no search engine that is leading yet. For them to get traffic, leverage they have to team up, they have an aggressive affiliate program.

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