Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: May 18, 2005

SABRE answered the question of how it will take on IAC/InterActiveCorp and Cendant in Europe, agreeing to purchase LastMinute.com for some $1.08 billion in cash. Travelocity Europes acquisition of LastMinute.com is subject to LastMinute.com shareholder approval and is expected to close by the end of July. It would widen Travelocitys reach and alter the balance of power in the European market, with Sabre positioning itself to vie for market dominance with Expedia. Travelocitys strategy is to operate multiple brands in Europe, with LastMinute.com becoming the lead brand in most countries where it has set up shop, Sabre said. Sabre expects the Travelocity/LastMinute.com combination to be strong in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and Spain.

TRAVEL SEARCH ENGINE SIDESTEP unveiled in beta an air and hotel package comparison-shopping feature with Pleasant Holidays, NLG and Orbitz as participants. The launch of SideStep vacations made the company the first of the so-called metasearch engines to enable consumers to simultaneously analyze packages from multiple vendors. Steps product includes vacations at some 90 destinations, including Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe. Users can search for and retrieve a list of vacation offerings from SideStep partners in two ways -- from Sidestep.com or by downloading the SideStep toolbar. And when toolbar users browse Travelocity, Expedia or other Web sites for vacation packages, they trigger an automatic SideStep parallel search among its partners for similar packages. Once the search results are displayed, users can compare the components of the packages. How dynamic are the packages? It depends on the technology of SideStep partner sites, where the bookings occur.

MEANWHILE, FORRESTER RESEARCH analyst Henry Harteveldt thinks the entry of the metasearchers -- Kayak is working on packaging functionality as well and Yahoo's FareChase can't be far behind -- may be an important factor in pushing reluctant agencies like Travelocity and Expedia to start working with the metasearchers. What SideStep and the other metasearch sites want is a compelling way to convince the major Web agencies to participate with them, said Harteveldt, Forresters vice president of travel research. Since dynamic packaging is such a key business line for the Web agencies they may feel substantially threatened or paranoid if they dont participate and then see competitors enter the fray. Orbitz has long marketed its air and hotel products through SideStep and has been one of the few U.S. online agencies, along with OneTravel.com, working with metasearchers.

KAYAK introduced a developer program at http://developer.kayak.com to enable software developers from third-party companies to add travel search to their Web sites or applications. The developer program also helps suppliers facilitate the search of their products through the Kayak network. Through an affiliate program, which is free, third parties can incorporate travel search into their Web sites. "The fastest and easiest way to implement Kayak.com travel search is to add a search form to your Web site that redirects to Kayak.com after your visitor provides search criteria," Kayak said. 

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