It’s no secret that the travel industry were quick in learning how to surf the wave of the Internet. The ability to effectively differentiate with a travel facilitation type online start-up is, however, becoming a major factor. Differentiation is one thing that startup Tripit.com feel they have.
- Organize trip details into one master online itinerary — even if arrangements are booked at multiple travel sites
- Automatically include maps, directions and weather in their master itinerary
- Have the option to book restaurants, theater tickets, activities and more right from within the online itinerary
- Safely access travel plans online, share them, check-in for flights, or print an itinerary
Initially, when I first visited Tripit, I came away thinking that these guys were really going to struggle as they didn’t seem to offer anything that special. I immediately thought, “Oh yeah, another orbitz“. But I took some time to watch their demo and it became very clear to me that these guys have identified a potential niche leveraging the web 2.0 revolution- trip planning.
By focusing on a service that provides the user with the ability to easily organise their trip, Tripit have a potentially unlimited target audience. Recent statistics show that customers increasingly prefer to book direct with a travel operator online, if they have this option is available to them. As a result more travel operators will go online and offer their inventory to clients directly in the future. This is where the tripit service may indeed be the perfect solution for any traveller.
The next logical step would be for a site like tripit to actually make the inventory of all these independent operators available to users. As it happens I know of a certain start-up who have been working on this type of technology, stay tuned to Rev2 for more news on this in the future.
The classic price comparison model offered by the likes of Orbitz and Travelocity was groundbreaking some years ago. More recently Tripadvisor has become extremely popular by taking more of a web 2.0 approach to travel with a focus on depth of relevant customer reviews, content and inventory on offer.
However, Tripadvisor’s web 2.0 strategy was proven to a be a little patchy when they were beaten in the travel industry ‘land grab’ on Facebook by Craig Ulliot’s Where I’ve been application. This Facebook application was subsequently picked up by Tripadvisor in a ground breaking acquisition.
I definitely believe that there is room for a player, like Tripit, with a primary business objective focused on providing online travel planning solutions to be successful. Although the big players could move in this direction, their focus will be hard to shift from their existing business models which focus more on transactional travel inventory sales online.
Recently I read an article where Orbitz CMO Randy Susan Wagner was quoted saying, “If you want loyalty get a dog. Loyalty is a marketing myth.” Wagner is convinced that building engagement over time is a more effective strategy than simply targeting loyalty. Apparently, Orbitz feel that they can create this engagement with customers who are not even considering the topic of travel with interactive games and extensions of old offers. To me this approach is creeping dangerously close to becoming a strategy based on distraction.
If I were Orbitz I would be keeping an eye on the likes of tripit as they create ongoing customer engagement whilst maintaining relevance to the topic of travel. What’s your opinion? Do you think that the current online travel giants days are numbered?