Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: April 20, 2005

PRICELINE.COM is making a bid to be a full-fledged retailer competing directly with Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. The company, which pioneered the name-your-own-price opaque model, introduced retail hotel and car rental offerings that are integrated into the Web site. It began retail air sales, with disclosed fares and brands, more than a year ago. The revamping of the site to incorporate domestic car and global hotel inventory rounded out Pricelines retail offerings. It includes air, hotel, car, cruise and dynamic packages. The company kicked off a TV and radio ad campaign, featuring William Shatner, but doesnt expect a major increase in advertising spending this year.

DOT-TRAVEL became an officially sanctioned top-level domain akin to dot-com and dot-net after its approval April 8 by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). The affirmative vote by Icann, a nonprofit that manages the domain name system, caps a five-year effort to win approval for dot-travel, which would be available exclusively to the travel industry. The approval clears the way for New York-based Tralliance Corp. to launch the registry for the new top-level domain later this year. Tralliance, a for-profit company, has been underwriting the registrys development and will provide day-to-day management. One of its big plans is to create a database of the dot-travel registrants and a search engine for consumers.

SPEAKING OF SEARCH ENGINES, Sabre said it acquired travel research site IgoUgo.com and enhanced it with a keyword search engine that eliminates the clutter of nontravel-related responses. For example, a Web search of Northwest using the IgoUgo engine pulled up travel-related links. [In contrast, a Google search retrieved links for everything from Northwest Airlines to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.] Sabre also said that the site will enable it to participate in the growth in paid search advertising.

KAYAK said it launched a bidding engine called the Kayak Network for advertisers that enables them to match advertising placements with specific search parameters, including city or city pairs, trip dates, length of stay and airline and hotel brands. Hoteliers can concentrate their marketing dollars on low occupancy dates rather than spending money to drive demand when it is not needed, said Kayak CEO Steve Hafner. Airlines can target specific city pairs and date range. The Kayak Network is an extranet where travel marketers can bid on the cost per click of their campaigns. In other news, Kayak said Orbitz dropped out of Kayak.com and America On-lines Kayak-powered Pinpoint Travel search sites.

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