‘Anyone’s game’ as new travel start-ups enter the fray

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A recent American Customer Satisfaction's annual e-Commerce report states that the entire online travel industry ‘continues to really be anyone's game’. Judging by the number of new travel start-ups entering the fray it may have a point, writes EyeforTravel’s Pamela Whitby.

Here we hear from two relative newcomers on the block. Triptease is a new review tool claiming that it is here to take on the likes of TripAdvisor. San Francisco-based GetGoing is a new OTA targeting the truly flexible traveller while claiming to benefit the airlines at the same time.

1. Triptease: revamping reviews, rebalancing power

UK Founder, entrepreneur Charlie Osmond doesn’t mince his words. Review sites like TripAdvisor are “a decade out of date” and “are over-run with irrelevant and anonymous ratings, and can make even the best-looking hotels in the world look visually terrible.” Triptease, on the other hand, claims to put the ‘photographic soul’ back into reviews. “Merging text and images, we create a finished product that's worth sharing with like-minded travellers,” he says.

The point Osmond wants to make is that travel is incredibly social – it is shared to Facebook timelines more than anything else. Yet reviews remain one of the least shared forms of user generated content on the web. “We can fix social media for the industry, making travel reviews shareable in a way that works brilliantly for hotels and consumers alike,” he says.

Lofty goals

The revenue model is an affiliate fee based on click-through to bookings. While there are a number of additional services and revenue streams, these are likely to be secondary. According to Osmond, an important aspect of our revenue model is to rebalance the misalignment of power in the industry, by offering a fairer deal to hotels and agents. “At present the industry encourages guests to post ratings to third-party review sites. Every review posted drives bookings via OTAs which take a cut from the hotel,” he says.

Triptease, however, says it is taking adifferent approach based around review freshness. Fresh reviews are less than six months old. If a partner (hotel, agent or airline) encourages a guest to create a review on Triptease, for a period of six months while the review is fresh, it will link directly back to the partner or free – no OTAs in the way.“After all, if they generated the review, it should be them not us who immediately profits,” he says.

The firm has developed an IPad app rather than going for the smartphone because it “is the biggest platform for mobile bookings and the format lends itself perfectly to flicking through reviews/great travel images”. 

Triptease is going after the luxury end of the global online travel market which is worth an estimated $75bn – the audience who would probably never contribute to Tripadvisor, anyway.

2. GetGoing: Leaving it to chance

This firm is an online travel site traditionally compared to Priceline and Hotwire but the model is slightly different in that they target a very specific customer - the flexible leisure traveller. GetGoing guarantees the best airfare but the catch is that customers must first pick two, not one, trips or vacation experiences to prove they are truly flexible. GetGoing then takes over and selects which of those two trips to book for them, explains Robb Henshaw the company’s VP of communications. This verifies that the person is travelling for leisure and not business, because business travellers are not able to leave their final destination to chance. Knowing that customers booking travel via GetGoing are travelling for leisure, airline partners are reportedly more willing to offer additional discounts to incentivise them to book more trips.

But why another online travel site?

According to Henshaw, the average traveller searches 22 different sites before booking their travel according to Google’s Think Insight’s ‘5 Steps of Travel’ report. “They do this because they are looking for the best price, but for the most part, all of the prices on today’s travel sites are the same,” he says. GetGoing’s Pick Two, Get One™ model introduces discounted prices not available on any other site, because it is able to validate the type of traveller. So true leisure travellers can make GetGoing their hub for travel search and rest assured they are getting the best price guaranteed.

At the same time, GetGoing provides a new tool for airlines to segment a specific type of customer so they can provide additional discounts. Statistics from Department of Transportation show that US carriers fly at an average 82% capacity, and international carriers are flying with an average 79% capacity. That results in approximately 160 million seats a year domestically and over 300 million seats internationally that remain unfilled. “GetGoing’s goal is to help airlines fill those seats by helping the flexible traveller not only find those seats, but save money when they book them,” says Henshaw.

Money matters

GetGoing is a venture-backed San Francisco startup. It is already working with over ten major airlines (domestic and international). The aim is to put the interests of consumer (more affordable travel) in line with the best interest of the airlines (the ability to give discounts only to those who need them, thus increasing profits).  GetGoing receives a percentage from the airlines for every trip booked, and in the future will be expanding to include hotels and more. One to watch?

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