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Archive for July, 2010

With Expedia, Orbitz, and other online travel stocks hovering just above the basement, news of Facebook and Google dancing around the travel niche cannot be thrilling. Online travel, in case you’ve been trapped in a dungeon somewhere, is about to take off like a rocket. For some that is.

Google’s announcement of the acquisition of ITA signaled the cocking of the proverbial hammer, if you are in the business of 21st Century online booking that is. Now enter Facebook, a very interesting interjection into travel dollars indeed. Facebook announced the buyout of the social network  NextStop, or rather the expertise and data therein. What can they be up to? Well, a piece of  $120 billion dollar online travel pie.

The Current State of Travel

According to Forrester Research, last year, online travel bookings represent nearly 40 percent of all booking bucks. Expedia, Orbitz, and a very few others have (so far) pocketed the lion’s share. But, in all honesty, just how long did they foresee such a virtual monopoly going forward? Their problem, from my perspective, is not much different from any other huge and profitable company – complacency – even greed. Why? Let me explain a little.

Expedia has proliferated the web with what you might call “satellites of success” – TripAdvisor being the biggest. The original innovation there, was significant – taking advantage of “the crowd” in as far a travel ratings and the vast network of affiliations – of course. But, like so many traditional thinking companies, Expedia only paid lip service to the social element. And then, for the most part they rested on their laurels – opps. What burns me about companies like Expedia? Their almost unlimited resources to create something far better – for you – and for them.

Orbitz? Well, maybe they just don’t have the cash? Despite positive earnings, Obritz seems content to offer Gulf Coast guarantees and traditional price incentives – for the most part any way. I covered their integration with iSeatz, but was honestly overly optimistic. The iSeatz move seemed to signal movement in the space, but like many such associations – there was no prime mover behind the deal. Many online companies fail to understand the need for traction and ongoing news – Orbitz is not alone. Without tipping any hands, I know Orbitz execs are rather closed minded or at best preoccupied with other matters. What burns me about them? The market is wide open for them to move – they won’t or can’t.

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