Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: June 15, 2005

HILTON introduced a distribution standard, telling franchisees they can't make new agreements with unaccredited third-party distributors. Hilton said Expedia and Hotels.com are the first "fully accredited" distributors, while Hotwire, Priceline and Travelweb were given temporary accreditation, with talks expected to lead to Hilton's wholehearted blessing. Bala Subramanian, Hilton's senior vice president of distribution and brand integrity, told TravelWeekly.com talks are under way to accredit Travelocity and Orbitz. "They certainly understand the terms of our accreditation criteria," he said. "They understand that those criteria have been mutually satisfactory for us and one of their biggest competitors. Properties that have existing agreements with unaccredited distributors like Travelocity and Orbitz will now have to submit a waiver, which will expire in six months," Subramanian said. Hilton has chain-wide agreements with Expedia and Hotels.com but not with Travelocity and Orbitz. Previously, Hilton properties got better terms if they distributed exclusively through Expedia and Hotels.com. "Now, hotels are no longer restricted in terms of who they may distribute through (as long as they are accredited), and they would still get the best possible economic terms from all distributors," a spokeswoman said. Hilton's distribution standards policy covers trademark and advertising practices, pricing consistency, economic terms and technology issues.

 

AIRTRAN became the first low-cost carrier to sign a distribution deal with G2 SwitchWorks, although JetBlue, Alaska and Independence Air have signed letters of intent. In a now-familiar agreement structure, AirTran prepaid distribution fees in exchange for a discounted rate and the chance to take a minority stake in the alternative GDS. With G2 distributing AirTran inventory to its key corporate accounts, the airline will give G2 access to fares and services that are unavailable in the GDSs. Previously, American, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United signed similarly structured distribution deals with G2 and they, too, may take small stakes in the GDS. US Airways joined G2s preferred partner program, but did not prepay tickets.

TRIPADVISOR -- and by extension, Expedia -- still isnt getting into metasearch, but it did recently introduce hotel search functionality. With the new hotel search, consumers select a city and enter their travel dates and price range. When they click on a property from the search results, they view a description of the hotel and read user reviews and articles from guidebooks and publications. There are two ways to book the hotel, neither of which occurs on TripAdvisor.com. Consumers can click on one of the myriad sponsored links integrated into the hotel pages or select QuickCheck, which opens the booking engines from companies like Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity in individual windows. An IAC/InterActiveCorp company, TripAdvisor, founded in 2000, will be part of the Expedia spin off.

GALILEO AND AIRPLUS, which provides a payment solution for airlines and agencies, implemented an interface that they said expedites travel-cost reconciliation for Galileo subscribers. Galileo agencies that book flights using AirPlus -- a preferred payment partner of airlines like Continental, Northwest, British Airways and Lufthansa -- now receive more detailed billing information, including service fees, miscellaneous change orders, employee ID numbers, and billing reference and project numbers. The companies said this Descriptive Billing Information, which comes in electronic or paper formats, reduces reconciliation time and enhances supplier negotiations.

SABRE introduced a Web-based cruise-booking tool, Sabre Cruises, in partnership with OurVacationStore. Sabre Cruises can be implemented on agencies Web sites, providing shopping and booking for Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Windstar. A private-label version of OurVacationStore cruise-booking technology, Sabre Cruises features a revenue management tool to load negotiated rates and monitor commission levels.

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