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Starting up in the travel industry isn’t easy, but one relatively new start up believes it is moving with its customers and the times.

When a big chunk of your customers keep asking for something, then it seems wise to deliver and start-up online travel agent, GetGoing, seems to have done this. It recently added hotels to its offering which targets the truly flexible, price sensitive traveller with deeply discounted flights.

Known as ‘Pick Two, Get One’, if the traveler is willing to select two destinations that they would like to go to and allow the company to select and book a flight to one of those destinations, then there are potential savings of as much 40% off the lowest published fares on any other site.

According to Robb Henshaw, VP of Communications for GetGoing, the adoption of the product has exceeded expectations but so far there are no booking numbers to report. What they can say, however, is that customers also started asking for the ability to book hotels through the site. So recently the company responded by partnering with the Expedia Affiliate Network to add hotels to the mix.

EyeforTravel.com caught up with Henshaw about the challenges GetGoing faces in a competitive, fast-changing market.

EFT: You’ve recently added hotels to the mix. Tell us about the rationale behind the recently signed an agreement with Expedia Affliliate Network…

RH: The number one most requested feature by our customers has been the ability to book hotels alongside their flights on GetGoing.com. So when rolling out our first hotel product, we wanted to make sure we were providing our customers with the best inventory/selection possible. So the significance of the deal is the value that it brings to our customers in terms of hotel and package selection. In the fall, we will be launching a very unique hotel product that is going to provide exceptional deals and hotel experiences to travelers, while also giving hotels a way to better compete for travelers' business. We're also preparing a new premium seat product, which we will be introducing soon, which will make finding and booking premium seat deals easier than ever.

EFT: Personalisation is a big buzzword. How do you ensure you offer a truly personal experience?

RH: From a business perspective, GetGoing’s innovation and differentiation is evidenced by our ability to create – for the first time – a mutually beneficial system in which the best interests of the airlines are aligned with the best interests of the consumer. GetGoing drives incremental revenue for our airline partners, while presenting consumers with discounts and a personalised shopping experience that saves time. We accomplish this by rejecting the paradigm that discounting results in reduced yield, therefore cutting deeply into the bottom line of airlines.

With our FlightFinder intelligent search product, we help people search not just by city or airport (and not just a single location at a time), but enable them to also search broader categories like regions, countries and even experiences (scuba diving, skiing, honeymoon destinations and so on). Using information shared with GetGoing both explicitly and through the social graph, we discover the most relevant and affordable destination options based on the type of trip a shopper searched for. Even if the consumer searched for something specific, we highlight any other more affordable flights that we find nearby or that match the desired experience of the traveler.

EFT: So what role is analytics and data playing in this?

RH: Now more than ever before – with the bevy of information available via the social graph, previous online behaviour and so on – travelers expect brands to know their preferences and provide a travel experience that reflects those preferences. Rather than simply delivering the results for the travelers’ specific request, GetGoing’s intelligent travel search and booking system provides personalised search results reflecting what the customer actually wants. Our personalisation features also enable an informed spontaneity when it comes to booking travel. Customers can search for places and see where their friends are located and which of their friends have visited each destination, so they know who they can visit in each place or who they can ask for recommendations.

EFT: As a start-up company, how do you approach marketing?

RH: Our current marketing strategy has two primary components - increasing brand awareness via the press and events, and building a product that delivers a better travel search and booking experience so that people are inspired to share and spread the word about GetGoing organically. The first is clearly a more traditional approach to marketing, where we engage both the press and the consumer directly to help spread the word. The second, though, is focused on creating the best possible experience for our customers in the hope that they will be inspired to share their experiences with friends, family, and their social graphs. We have the benefit of dealing with both travel and deals, though, which makes this organic marketing easier.

EFT: And of course, social media plays a really important role in organic marketing…

RH: Yes, people love to talk about their upcoming travel, and they also like talking about getting deals - so if we can provide a great travel booking experience and save our customers money in the process, they tend to share their experiences enthusiastically.

Social media is a critical part of this organic marketing, of course, as most people turn to Facebook and Twitter to talk about the amazing trip they just booked and how much they saved. We also incentivise people to talk about GetGoing on social media by offering referral credits, where they can earn $50 in travel credit for each person they refer who books a trip with GetGoing.

One the mobile front, we have already iPad optimised our site to improve the experience for the large group of people who search and book from their tablets. We are also working on an innovative mobile app that will come out before the end of the year.

EFT:  Finally, the battle between online travel agents and meta-search players seems to be hotting up. Are you worried?

RH: Metasearch is often valuable in its ability to help find deals across multiple sources (especially for international travel), but a big part of metasearch is also delivering certain promoted results above others. Therefore, metasearch alone often provides travellers with a false perception that they are getting the best possible deal. So the cost of utilising a metasearch-only approach is that the customer gives up customer service and a consistent booking experience in the hope that they'll get the best price, which doesn't always happen. But when OTAs leverage powerful search technologies (like those from Amadeus) and combine them with their own powerful search intelligence, personalisation technology, and customer service - travelers then receive a more consistent search and booking experience while ensuring that they also receive the best prices.

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