Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: Oct. 18, 2006

TRAVELOCITY unveiled a loyalty program, offering customers who gain VIP status advance notice of sales and exclusive promotions and discounts; additional points that can be redeemed for travel when bookings are made using the Travelocity MasterCard; a dedicated customer service line for VIP members; and perks like airport shuttles and car rental discounts. There are no sign-up fees and Travelocity users automatically become VIP members when making five qualified bookings within 12 months. In launching the program, the Sabre-owned online agency said it is trying to win repeat business and change the buying patterns of fickle, bargain-hunting consumers.

FARECOMPARE, a Dallas startup that subscribes to air fare data from the Airline Tariff Publishing Co., released an air fare e-mail alert service for consumers that claims to deliver fare changes up to four hours sooner than the Web sites of network airlines and online agencies. FareCompare stated it gets the jump on airline fare changes because most carrier and agency Web sites get their fare updates from the GDSs, which receive them from ATPCO and can take two to six hours to process them. FareCompare has focused its business on developing a "deals engine" to absorb the fare changes and deliver them to consumers as quickly as possible, the company said. "With this alert system, consumers are reaping the benefits of our five-year investment in building the fastest air fare processing system available," stated CEO Rick Seaney. The fare alert system addresses the volatile world of air fare price changes, where low fares are introduced and may disappear a couple of hours later without notice. Consumers that enroll at www.farecompare.com/email can subscribe to alerts about fare changes from any airport or for several city pairs. FareCompare uses a star rating system to indicate the scope of the savings, with a four-star designation indicating that the fare is approaching an historical low, for instance. Consumers -- or travel agents who want to track fare changes even before they are available in their GDS -- can also sign up for alerts via RSS feeds at www.farecompare.com/rss. FareCompare also labels certain fares with an icon, noting that they just dropped to that level and may still be unavailable in online booking systems.   

MORE ABOUT FARES: FARE BUZZ, which offers its consolidator booking tool to travel agents at www.farebuzz.com, recently completed a technology integration with Amadeus, although inventory from the Madrid-based GDS/IT company isn't live yet on the site, a spokesman for Fare Buzz said. The introduction of Amadeus inventory will supplement fares from Sabre, Galileo and consolidators that agents can book through the online booking tool. Fare Buzz enables agent participants to set their own commissions and keep the markup for coach, business class and first class flights for domestic travel and consolidator fares where the origination city is overseas. In other news, the Fare Buzz spokesman said the company recently was contracted with by the Crane Hotel & Residences in Barbados to use the Fare Buzz air booking engine on the hotel's revamped Web site. Fare Buzz, a year-old company with 40 employees and some $24 million in sales, is privately owned by a group with interests in technology, corporate travel and the consolidator business.

SIDESTEP has introduced a new roster of vacation package wholesalers, hotel chains and consolidators to its travel search engine. Regarding wholesalers, Apple Vacations and Funjet Vacations now market vacation packages direct to consumers through SideStep, supplementing launch partner Pleasant Holidays. NLG marketed its vacation packages through SideStep when the search engine unveiled its package offerings in November 2005, but dropped out recently because it temporarily exited the vacation package wholesale business, according to Simon Goodall, NLG's director of business development. NLG now primarily uses Travel Impressions to source vacation package content, and new owner World Travel Holdings plans to introduce a vacation packaging technology platform in 2007 that will be used by NLG-sanctioned retail brands, Goodall added.  SideStep, meanwhile, has bolstered its lineup of hotels, adding some 25,000 properties, with a focus on Las Vegas and parts of Europe, through recent partnerships with chains and consolidators. New hotel partners include Classic International Hotels, Golden Tulip, Jurys Doyle, Millennium Capthorne Hotels, NH Hotels, Preferred Group, Sierra Suites and Station Casinos; and hotel consolidators Flairview Travel, Hotel Book, Hotel.de, Reserve Travel/Alliance and Skoosh.

SKYTOURS, an online agency [www.sky-tours.com] with points of sale in 11 European countries and the U.S., has renewed its technology agreement for three years with Worldspan. Worldspan will continue to provide Skytours with air distribution, booking engine, transaction processing and e-ticketing services; meanwhile, Skytours plans to enhance its Web sites with Worldspan's e-Pricing low-fare shopping solution in the "near future," the companies said. 

Technology Editor:

Dennis Schaal

Phone: (201) 902-1904

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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