Rent-A-Wreck: Kayak yes, global distribution systems no
Jason Manelli, a Rent-A-Wreck spokesman, figures it cost the company about $20,000 to write the code to connect to Kayak using OpenTravel’s open source XML schema.
He estimates it would have cost Rent-A-Wreck, which specializes in renting 3- to 5-year old cars from about 220 franchise locations in the U.S., Norway and Sweden, about “half a million dollars” — including the expense of buying a car chain code — to connect to major global distribution systems using their proprietary software.
Rent-A-Wreck doesn’t connect to the GDSs.
In addition to the cost factor, “we want to own our technology,” Manelli says.
But, lacking a GDS tie-in, Rent-A-Wreck can’t participate in major online travel agencies, which generally use EDIFACT-based GDS connections for rental-car inventory.
“The smaller car rental market (after Enterprise, Hertz, Avis Budget, and Dollar Thrifty) don’t have the resources to use EDIFACT to connect to either the GDS or the OTAs,” says Valyn Perini, OpenTravel’s executive director. “XML is a boon to these smaller companies, and allows them to get their inventory out there in a way they can afford and control.”
Ace Rent A Car also uses OpenTravel schema for distribution.
Several other rental car companies use proprietary XML schema.
Rent-A-Wreck’s participation in Kayak is not its first with a metasearch engine.
Manelli says Rent-A-Wreck participated from the early days in SideStep, which scraped the rental-car company’s website for inventory, but dropped out for about a year after Kayak acquired SideStep in late 2007.
Rent-A-Wreck completed working on its XML schema to connect to Kayak in mid-2009 and today Rent-A-Wreck participates in both Kayak.com and SideStep.com.
“It’s been a homerun,” Manelli says about the company’s use of Kayak. “It’s really been great. Our franchisees tell the tale and they are really happy with it.”
The Kayak connection enabled Rent-A-Wreck, which doesn’t have airport locations, to build a clientele of airline passengers as it now offers pick-up and drop-off service at 47 U.S. airports, Manelli says.
“It’s brought in a whole new set of customers,” he says.
A substantial number of bookings, too, have through from referrals from Kayak’s mobile apps, Manelli adds.
Manelli says Rent-A-Wreck will be going live with CarRentalExpress.com in several days. Because of Rent-A-Wreck’s previous code-writing for the Kayak connection, Manelli pegs the software costs of implementing an XML connection with CarRentalExpress.com at around $1,000.
Meanwhile, the GDS world may be exhibiting the first signs of adapting to XML for cars.
Amadeus stated last year that it developed a platform to enable car rental companies to exchange all of their messages using OpenTravel XML schema, enabling distribution through online and offline travel agencies.
Amadeus says it had already been using XML for cars, and added OpenTravel schema as an option.
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.