Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: November 30, 2005

SAM KATZ, who heads Cendants travel distribution business, said Orbitz could one day become the spun-off business global retail brand. We certainly have that aspiration, but we dont have that plan in the drawer, said Katz in delivering a speech at the recent PhoCusWright Executive Conference in Orlando. Cendant already has transitioned Travelport, Cheap Tickets and Lodging.com to the Orbitz technology platform, with international holdings like Gullivers Travel Associates and ebookers next in the pipeline. Katz said Galileo gives the distribution business a global footprint and its cash flow enables Cendant to reinvest in the business. But, would the standalone distribution business be under pressure if the new-entrant GDSs gain traction? Katz said the companys consumer businesses provide a hedge. They create a separate, growing earnings stream that mitigates against any challenges in the GDS business, Katz said.

CENDANT, meanwhile, will power the revamped American Airlines corporate booking solution, CorporateAAccess.com. With testing in the fourth quarter and a rollout scheduled for the first half of next year, the portal will feature privately negotiated fares and rates from American, American Eagle and AmericanConnection; hotel stays; and car rentals. It also will enable business travelers to book publicly available fares from other airlines, hotels and car rental companies. The current incarnation of CorporateAAccess, powered by Navitaire, offers Americans domestic itineraries and does not facilitate the bookings of publicly available fares from other airlines. The relaunched portal will enable corporate travel managers to access real-time traveler data and improved reporting that supports easy integration into existing back-office systems, American stated. This is the second recent corporate portal deal for Cendant. In October, United introduced a corporate portal powered by Cendant which was based on Orbitz technology.

MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, HILTON HOTELS AND HILTON INTERNATIONAL separately reached distribution agreements with several online distributors. Under one of the agreements, Orbitz will establish a direct connection with the Marriott res system to offer merchant inventory and rates to consumers booking individual room stays. Previously, Orbitz accessed Marriott merchant inventory for vacation packages but used Priceline-owned Travelweb for room stays that werent bundled into packages. In another Cendant deal, Hilton Hotels added Orbitz, Cheap Tickets and Lodging.com to its lineup of accredited distributors and will begin providing rooms on a merchant basis. Previously, Orbitz got that inventory through Travelweb. Hilton Hotels accreditation of the Cendant online agencies leaves Travelocity as the only one of the big three online agencies without Hilton Hotels nod of approval. In other developments, Hilton International, the U.K.-headquartered division of the Hilton Group, reached its first distribution agreement with a travel search engine. Hilton International, which operates 263 Hilton-branded hotels outside the U.S. and 139 Scandic-branded properties, agreed to allow SideStep to establish a direct connection to the Hilton International Web site at www.hilton.co.uk. Hilton International said it launched a new availability engine to accommodate search engines like SideStep. With the new technology and direct connection, SideStep can access Hilton International room and rate information without scraping the chains Web site and overloading it with unproductive traffic.

YAHOO took new steps to give its FareChase comparative shopping engine greater prominence within its travel offerings, putting a FareChase tab on the Yahoo Travel homepage for the first time. Yahoos decision to tighten the integration of FareChase into the Yahoo Travel homepage, Yahoo Travel Guides and Yahoo Shopping came after Travelocity and Yahoo renegotiated their contract in July. Travelocity is still the exclusive booking engine for air, car and hotel reservations on Yahoo Travel, and the agreement was extended one year, until Dec. 31, 2006. In addition to new financial provisions, the revised agreement indicates that Travelocity wont participate in FareChase and Allow(s) Yahoo to continue and expand in the travel search arena throughout the Yahoo Network, Travelocity stated in an SEC filing. Yahoo maintains it always had the right to expand into meta-search. And, in another development, Orbitz began participating in FareChase through an agreement with Cendant that also includes Cendants hotel brands. In a turnaround for FareChase, meanwhile, the Yahoo meta-search player began searching the American Airlines Web site, AA.com, for schedules and fares, through a direct-connect using XML technology. FareChases access to AA.com started Nov. 14 despite the fact that American sued FareChase for unauthorized scraping in 2003 before Yahoo acquired FareChase. The two parties settled that litigation prior to Yahoos purchase of FareChase in 2004.

 

CHOICE HOTELS decided to make its group rates available to consumers and group leaders through Groople.com, the group travel booking site. Other participating chains on Groople include Best Western, La Quinta, and the Cendant brands. Groople said it works with some 60,000 properties worldwide.

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