In changing its traditional metasearch role, Kayak’s plan to facilitate bookings by collecting customer information highlights the transformation of various travel industry segments into a sometimes-seeming amorphous mass.
After all, Kayak, a travel metasearch and media company, intends to dabble in part of the consumer transaction, heretofore the turf of suppliers and travel agencies. And, by the way, Kayak also is getting involved in itinerary management — the fiefdom of TripIt, TripCase and Traxo, among others — with Kayak Trips.
Kayak actually is playing a leadership role and is differentiating itself in its plan for “assisted bookings” through its mobile app, in Private Sale and on its websites, but if it is successful and the other metasearch players follow, then we’ll begin to see a further blurring of roles among online travel agencies, suppliers and metasearch companies.
Asked about Kayak’s initiative in assisted bookings, Katie Deines, an Expedia Inc. spokeswoman, puts it all in perspective.
“That a metasearch player isÂ workingÂ beyond lead generationÂ to grow its role in the actual transaction seems consistent with whereÂ online travel has evolved to date,” Deines says. “Over the last few years, we’ve grown our own Expedia Media Solutions business on the recognition that we offerÂ brand advertisers and supply partnersÂ a unique opportunity toÂ positionÂ and differentiate themselves in the largest online travel marketplace in the world.”
In other words, while Kayak, the media company, is dabbling in OTA land, similarly OTAs such as Expedia — it’s no secret — are hellbent on developing their advertising/media businesses.
And, as Deines points out, last year TripAdvisor, the growth engine in Expedia Inc.’s media business, introduced flight metasearch and “brought a new, moreÂ transactional element into play there.”
Deines adds: “The linesÂ have blurred somewhat between online travel players being strictly aboutÂ retailing travel or delivering media value to other brands. Our sites will maintain primary focus on their core competencies, but willÂ integrate elements from the other side when it means a better experience for our customers.”
You see this sort of convergence everywhere you turn in the travel industry.
Delta Air Lines offers local city tours, airport parking and ground transportation from iSeatz.com.
Deal-publisher Travelzoo gets into flight metasearch with Fly.com.
Southwest Airlines offers a new Travel Guide for restaurants, music and snow-boarding.
As East meets West, so to speak, and the roles of suppliers and intermediaries blend with those of metasearch engines, I guess one key is to stay on top of your core business and to be ahead of the curve and differentiate before the rest of the pack catches up.