E-Travel: Can We All Be Winners?

Readers far and near will be crossing their fingers, no doubt, in the hopes that I win round trip airfare for two to any destination in North America, compliments of Orbitz.com.

You know Orbitz, even though you still can’t book travel reservations there. For almost two years now, I’ve been kind enough to periodically remind you of its imminent arrival.

This time, Orbitz let me know (via e-mail) that all I have to do is register to “preview” the new site and I may be flying anywhere from Poughkeepsie to Provo, compliments of the Orbitz house.

Registering took about 12 seconds, and previewing the site another 12 seconds. It’s underwhelming, particularly if one is used to established travel sites such as Travelocity and Expedia.

I even checked out the Press Room section, and was somewhat disappointed to find none of my many musings about Orbitz included in the selections.

Hmmm … just because every few months I wonder in print if Orbitz is all style and no substance, and never really planning to debut a Web site, is no reason to blacklist me from the press room.

Of course, winning my free trip for two would make up for the snub. Then again, the way e-travel is going, maybe everybody will be a winner.

Online Travel Takes Off

Somewhat quieter than Orbitz in its approach, but plenty aggressive in its plans to be a real player in online travel, is Delta Air Lines. Delta has touted its intention to sell US$1.4 billion in airline tickets online this calendar year, and it is pushing that plan ahead with its latest innovation, MYOBTravel.

MYOB focuses on small business consumers who want a one-stop shop for airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars. The site sells tickets from other airline companies as well.

Sounds a lot like my buddy, Travelocity.

While you and I might benefit from Delta’s sense of urgency toward stepping up its e-commerce efforts, it’s not a self-sacrificing act. Delta predicted that it stands to save about $45 million this year through increased sales and efficiency of the Internet.

E-Commerce Poster Child

If Delta’s predictions are true, it speaks well for the travel industry’s unwavering commitment to incorporate e-commerce into its overall strategy.

The business-to-consumer (B2C) “most likely to succeed” trophy surely goes to online travel. Delta is Exhibit A. Not only does Delta have a user-friendly, efficient Web site with a menu of services and options for travelers, but Delta will even be one of the partners on Orbitz.

Competition among online travel companies is a mutual back-scratching model that other industries would do well to watch. It’s as if the various players are indirectly working together to create a solid playing field that cannot be toppled. Once in place, the field will likely be the site of some of the most formidable online competition.

Hanging Tough

But Travelocity, for one, is not sitting idly by as the airlines put their e-commerce efforts into hyperdrive.

Travelocity is good at one very important thing: customer service. In fact, the company recently unleashed 24-hour customer service.

At the same time, it has introduced a new travel club overflowing with generous discounts and travel perks, plus its own MasterCard featuring reward points that convert to travel savings.

And Expedia? Not to worry. The company reports a 10.2 percent gain in unique visitors in February as it continually upgrades its alliances and its technology.

Airlines Rule

So, you don’t want to miss the online travel war resulting from the various players trying to outdo one another.

Jupiter Media Metrix predicts the airline companies will win at least some of the major battles. According to Jupiter’s research over the 12 months leading up to February, airline sites increased their number of unique visitors 26.1 percent, while travel sites such as Travelocity and Expedia posted an increase of 7 percent.

Much ado about not much, I believe, even though Jupiter’s predictions are often well-founded.

Room for All?

Everyone is taking a wait-and-see attitude as to whether the elusive Orbitz will trounce them all, but as someone who has been regularly booking travel online for more than two years, I’ve developed some loyalty to one particular company. It can’t be that I am unique in that regard, although we online shoppers can be a fickle bunch.

Whether there is room online for the many airline companies and travel firms remains to be seen, but that determination may well have more to do with how the various companies court the public.

For my taste, they’re doing a great job of making it easy and fast. Those that shine are likely to be the ones that offer the most options, the best values and the most efficient customer service. After that, throw in some irresistible perks and a freebie now and then, and we’re in.

If e-travel is to be a war, consumers might do well to say, “Bring it on.”

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


2 Comments

  • Good article, especially about loyalty – we are beginning to see online brands retaining customers.

    The E-Travel winners will win because they can deliver a custom travel experience better, faster and cheaper. At a profit!

    This hasn’t changed since the Swiss discovered those wacky Englishmen climbing mountains were actually “Tourists!” Or, since Ted Cook started packaging trips to Tahiti, or the Hogans at Pleasant Holidays brought affordable island travel to the American masses.

    Brand integrity begins with product quality.

    Guess we’ll find out pretty soon how Orbitz stacks up again competition.

    I think they’ll succeed.

  • I think the online travel industry is really an AM azing phenomenon! There are countless sites out there battling to be number one… and yet they all seem to be doing alright in the meantime… It’s interesting that Orbitz.com has recently gotten the OK from the DOT (“Orbitz Set for Launch with DOT Clearance” http://news.excite.com/news/r/010413/19/net-transport-orbitz-dc ) Personally I think this site is the best. What are everyone opinions?

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