PRICER: Amadeus recently unveiled Meta Pricer, a new IT
solution designed to help resolve ongoing screen-scraping issues
among travel search engines and suppliers. Instead of providing
inventory via screen-scraping or establishing XML feeds, Meta
Pricer would enable airlines and other suppliers to signal to
Amadeus the specific fares and availabilities they want to offer,
and the metasearch companies would retrieve the data from Amadeus.
Screen-scraping, or HTML-scraping, as it is also known, still is
the dominant way that supplier Web sites and metasearch engines
interface both in the U.S. and Europe. Although the travel search
engines, unlike several years ago, often have suppliers' permission
to scrape their Web sites for inventory, the process still can be
inefficient and costly, and this is what Meta Pricer is geared to
MEANWHILE, the CEOs of two travel search
engines, Mobissimo and Cheapflights, offered varying views on the
value proposition of Meta Pricer, which may have better prospects
in Europe than the U.S. because of Amadeus' closer airline
relationships across the Atlantic. Beatrice Tarka, a founder and
CEO of Mobissimo, noted that Meta Pricer is unlikely to be a
comprehensive solution for consumers. That's because suppliers may
offer only certain fares, and availability issues would come into
play when Meta Pricer serves as an intermediary between search
engines and suppliers, Tarka said. In that regard, Kayak in the
U,S. has dodged much of the screen-scraping problem in many
supplier relationships by accessing data through ITA Software,
which has direct-connects with major airlines and access to GDS
data. "Like ITA in the U.S., though, Meta Pricer is not a panacea,"
said David Soskin, the CEO of U.K.-headquartered Cheapflights. "It
is likely to be expensive, but it will help suppliers mitigate
their costs. I believe it will be a crucial factor in the success
of the metasearch business model."
TRAVELPORT is piling up red ink on paper
while its Orbitz and Cheaptickets consumer businesses in the U.S.
steal market share from Expedia and Travelocity. In the third quarter, Travelport's
domestic gross bookings rose 31%, compared with 2% at Expedia Inc.
and 13% at Travelocity. Orbitz and Cheaptickets have been on a
similar run all year in relation to their chief competitors. Part
of the surge can be attributed to marketing expenditures.
Travelport stated that its consumer businesses experienced
increased operating expenses of $29 million related to "increases
in cost of revenue and marketing expenses." Travelport, meanwhile,
took a $1.2 billion goodwill impairment charge in the third
quarter, doubling the total impairment charge tied to its Aug. 23
acquisition by a Blackstone Group affiliate to $2.4 billion. For
the entire third quarter, including the July 1 to Aug. 22 period
when Cendant still owned it, Travelport recorded a net loss of
around $1.2 billion.
INC. CEO DARA KHOSROWSHAHI said the company is pondering
rolling out branded credit cards for Expedia.com and Hotels.com, where
cardholders would be able to earn points for booking travel. The
statement came as Expedia.com rolled out a rewards program for
consumers that effectively is an expansion of Citigroup's existing
ThankYou Network. Expedia, as the ThankYou Network's exclusive
travel partner, launched a component that enables customers to earn
ThankYou rewards for booking travel at Expedia. In addition,
Expedia is powering the redemption of travel rewards at ThankYouNetwork.com. ThankYou members earn points by
using eligible Citigroup credit cards and by maintaining an
eligible checking account. They also can earn points for shopping
at ThankYouNetwork.com. In the enhanced version, members of the
free rewards program will earn points when booking air-hotel
packages, hotels, cruises and activities on Expedia, regardless of
which credit card or debit card they use. They will earn additional
points if they buy travel with an eligible Citibank credit card or
debit card. Members can redeem points for a variety of goods and
services, including travel.
CORRECTION: An item about SideStep in the
Oct. 18 Technology E-letter incorrectly stated that NLG ceased
selling vacation packages through SideStep because NLG discontinued
selling travel inventory directly to consumers. Instead, NLG, under
owner World Travel Holdings, temporarily exited the vacation
package wholesale business, according to an NLG
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