Price comparison sites advancing quicker than traditional operators
August 29, 2007
Online travel is growing exponentially, approx 40% of UK travel consumers are expected to book at least one part of their holiday next year online. All the players are expanding their online activities to try to meet this demand but the ones who are really innovating will (in my opinion) be the winners.
Currently, the innovation (and by that I mean really useful innovation) is coming from some of the price comparison / fare aggregator websites.
I’ll start with Kayak; they’ve added a really nice and simple piece of functionality which adds a lot of value to the consumer. Their ‘weekend search’ allows users to compare air fares for the weekend periods across a month instead of having to specify exactly which dates they want. This is a real bonus for those of us who like to get away for weekend breaks quite often. Simple functions like this can dramatically improve conversion rates as users find websites more accommodating to their needs, and of course you can still get your results in a multitude of displays (list, matrix, map, price trend graph etc). See the image below showing the results from a search for November weekend availability, they quickly show users what is the cheapest weekend to travel.
Next comes Farecast; they’ve added functionality to their hotels search to enable users to pick out whats a good deal and whats not. Hotels are now colour coded depending on whether Farecast considers them a good deal. It’s only available on certain destinations and hotels at the moment but they promise to expand their coverage quite quickly. It’s a big step forward if you’re a price sensitive online shopper (as most travellers are). Example of the map based results below:
Lastly comes SideStep; another aggregator of airfares and hotel availability. FareTracker is their latest offering which has just come out in Beta. It allows users to track a flight route to see how the fare has moved over time. It leverages the millions of searches that are happening on SideStep to find the lowest fares for any combination of flight plans with the greatest degree of date flexibility in the market today: +/- 7 days from a specified date. In addition to monitoring price, users can select to recieve weekly email updates or updates as the prices change, receive an email notification if the price reaches a specified price point (a trigger to buy) and track historical fare pricing for the route chosen. It all mounts up to a serious piece of functionality, although incredibly similar in premise to Travelemails.com. Again, here’s a screenshot:
This kind of innovation knocks spots off the offerings from traditional travel operators such as tour operators. Even some of the other, sometimes better known, price comparison sites (Travel Supermarket, Kelkoo etc) struggle to offer anything innovative like this.
A time will come when tour operators and the likes either have to catch up quick or get their product included in these aggregators and start to pay commissions like an affiliate scheme.