Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: Dec. 6, 2007

ARC AND MASTERCARD introduced a prepaid ARC MasterCard Travel Card that's available to consumers through ARC-accredited travel agencies and corporate travel departments. The card uses a contactless payment reader at retail outlets like gas stations and restaurants that enables consumers to "tap and go," the companies said. Consumers tap the card on a PayPass logo at the retail outlet, listen for a beep and look for a green light to indicate that their payment has been accepted. With purchases of under $25 consumers, including travelers, don't have to enter PINs or sign receipts. ARC said it is the sole distributor of travel card through retail agencies and corporate travel departments.

INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS GROUP brands will be available on Expedia and Hotels.com in the coming months for the first time since the chain, severed relations with Expedia in 2004. IHG broke with Expedia over distribution economics and allegations about deceptive Expedia marketing practices, but through the new multiyear pact will now be Expedia's launch partner for a transaction- and media-based pricing model, with promises of preferred placements on Expedia and Hotels.com. IHG inventory already is available on Expedia-owned Hotwire, an opaque seller of distressed inventory.

MEANWHILE, THE FENCE-MENDING between Expedia and IHG left others to wonder who "won" the skirmish. Bob Offutt, a senior technology and airline analyst at PhoCusWright, offered: "My take is that Expedia needed IHG more than IHG needed Expedia, so IHG won and will benefit from a broad-based agreement including preferred placement." Offutt notes that with U.S. airlines successfully pressuring GDSs and travel agencies for pricing advantages last year, this development "has not been lost on the hoteliers." Diane Clarkson, a travel analyst at JupiterResearch, sees some irony in the preferred placements that IHG will get with the new media model. "There has been some concern in the industry about preferred search results," Clarkson says. "Personally, I think it is naive given 'special rate' relationships already have preferred search results. But it would be ironic if the new relationship with IHG-Expedia did in fact lead to a preferred search that pushed the boundaries of fairness, given IHG's previous position with Expedia on fair practices."

MAKING NEW FRIENDS EVERYWHERE, Expedia teamed with the National Football League, becoming the official travel sponsor of the NFL. It's the latest example of a travel company tapping into the sports market. Consumers visiting Expedia.com will be able to purchase game- and event-oriented vacation packages that include game tickets. Packages are available at www.expedia.com/nfl.

TRAVELOCITY late last month signed a new distribution agreement with JetBlue. The airline had been experimenting with Travelocity for some time, and the two parties said they signed a formal agreement in late November.  JetBlue, which flies to 53 cities with up to 550 daily flights, has its flights available on Travelocity and soon will make them available to Travelocity in vacation packages. Meanwhile, JetBlue also signed a pact with Priceline. It already had deals in place with Expedia and Orbitz.

Technology Editor: Dennis Schaal

Phone: (201) 902-1904

[email protected]

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