Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: June 5, 2008

PRICELINE introduced Sunshine Guaranteed vacation packages to more than 100 destinations in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Europe as a way to encourage bookings from travelers who may fear soggy fairways, muddy country roads or rainy beach days on their holiday getaways. For vacations to these locales that are booked by July 17 for travel between July 1 and Sept.  7, Priceline pledges to refund the full cost of the booking if the vacation is “rained out.” The online agency's definition of a washed-out vacation is one where it rains more than one-half inch per day for half or more of the vacation. Travelers are sent a customized link to track the precipitation on their holiday through a Priceline partnership with WeatherBill.com. The daily amount of rainfall is measured at the destination airport and provided by the National Weather Service or other impartial agencies. On the business side of the arrangement, Priceline disclosed that it entered into a pact in which WeatherBill.com makes payments to Priceline to cover the full cost of Sunshine Guaranteed refunds and that Priceline makes certain fixed payments to WeatherBill.com, as well. The payments that Priceline makes “are not material to Priceline.com's financial condition or results of operations,” Priceline stated.

TRAVELPORT GDS made a new “multimillion-dollar investment” in the Middle East and plans to develop direct distribution in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and to expand its direct distribution in Egypt instead of relying on third-party marketing entities, the company said. Direct distribution eliminates third parties like national airlines and other marketing organizations as middlemen, bringing improved economics to the GDSs and more control. Travelport GDS, which owns Galileo and Worldspan, said that Galileo is the leading GDS provider in the Middle East. And Worldspan has a wholly owned operation in Egypt and a successful operation in several key Middle East markets, Travelport GDS added. “We feel the interests of the travel agents across the region will be better served by new distributor relationships in certain markets,” said Rabih Saab, vice president for Travelport GDS’ Middle East and Africa region.

SABRE updated its Travel Security and Data Suite, giving corporate agencies the ability to provide their clients with direct access to information about the location of their traveling employees in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis. Corporate travel management companies, or TMCs, that subscribed to the product had access to this data in the initial launch of the suite in mid-2007, and the new release enables corporations to access the data through their own ID, password and URL; the suite also can now track cruise and rail reservations in addition to air and hotel. In addition to giving TMCs and their clients the ability to locate employees, the suite also has policy features that would identify when the number of executives on a single flight exceeds company guidelines, for instance.

ECOMMISSION SOLUTIONS AND GRASP TECHNOLOGIES introduced products that work jointly to enable agencies to capture and process missing hotel and car segments so the agencies can recoup lost commission revenue and streamline back-office processing. New York-based eCommission Solutions offers a Snapshot product that “captures all of the reservations, changes and cancellations made on all the GDSs, including all of the segments that may be already missing in the back office,” the company said. And Columbus, Ohio-based Grasp Technologies offers its Grasp Prepare product, which eliminates “noncollectible duplicate segments from the back office for cleaner collections and more efficient posting of commissions,” Grasp stated.  The companies said that 20% to 40% of hotel commissions go uncollected and that their products enable agencies to attract revenue that would otherwise go uncollected.

VEGAS.COM upgraded its Las Vegas shows page at www.vegas.com/shows/ to consolidate content on one page and to streamline search navigation. Within one window, users can access reviews, video previews, maps, seating descriptions, show availabilities and age restrictions.  Users, of course, can book the shows, as well.

Technology Editor: Dennis Schaal
[email protected] 
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