FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, April 04, 2005

In Travel, Disrupting the Disrupters

No sooner had online travel sites revolutionized how we find and book travel deals than they themselves could be disrupted. Yahoo! and AOL are tweaking their search engines to scour travel provider sites for the lowest air and hotel fares.

These meta-travel initiatives -- AOL's Pinpoint Travel and Yahoo's FareChase -- search the web for the lowest air fares, hotel rates and car rental deals. Instead of booking through either site, the user is given a direct link to the airline, hotel or car rental agency to make the transaction. In addition to helping users locate the lowest prices, these services also allow them to sidestep booking fees.

The concept is not new, but the two Net giants give it more weight than could the startup companies who originally developed the technology. "Yahoo and AOL together are going to contribute to total upheaval in the travel world," says Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research.

One downside is that some providers -- most notably discount airline Southwest -- have opted out of the systems, thereby denying users a truly comprehensive search. If these sites really do catch on, though, services would have everything to lose by opting out; it would be like not allowing your website to be listed on a popular search engine... which is essentially what these sites are.

Sources: eWeek, Emerging Technologies