Thursday, December 21, 2006

Online travel in 2006

2006 will perhaps be remembered as the year that the traditional travel industry woke up to the internet in a big way.

In the UK the likes of Expedia,, Opodo et al have been blazing a trail for online travel agencies for years, but this year has seen those pre dot-commers realising exactly what can be achieved on the web.

Thomson, the UK multiple with a traditional bricks and mortar presence as well as aircraft and tour operating business, said it would be continuing its aggressive growth strategy that will ensure the web is its primary portal to reach consumers.

The other members of the so-called group of Big Four, such as Thomas Cook, also made a concerted effort to push their online brands.

Away from the package holiday market, other suppliers, such as British Airways, which have had an online presence for years, unveiled their own innovative new websites during the course of 2006.

Indeed the new caused quite a stir in the industry when it relaunched in November as, to all intents and purposes, it mirrored both in terms of functionality and design many of the online travel agency sites.

A string of other airlines and hotels also took the plunge and invested resources into their online businesses.

Meanwhile, Web 2.0 has moved from being something the geeky end of the internet community talked about at conferences to where some of its core principles are heralding a new age for the travel sector.

In fact, user generated content – in the form of reviews – on sites such as TripAdvisor is almost a benchmark for where a travel website should be if it just wants to scratch the surface.

The mash-up is becoming the de-facto method when trying to show some level of advanced functionality on a site.

But look beyond these already rather simple tools and there is a world of opportunity in the guise of travel social networking with sites like, Yahoo!’s Trip Planner and Answers, Travelpost and RealTravel.

We cannot mention 2006 without commenting on the influence of some of the key US players on the market.

On the one hand, the American owners of and Ebookers is finally beginning to unravel (Ebookers relaunches in April 2007 and Ian McCaig has taken over from Brent Hoberman at

But the likes of Sidestep, Kayak and Mobissimo are expected to shake up the already burgeoning travel/meta search market. This will be a key to keep an eye area in 2007.

Finally, there is plenty to say about private equity and the role of venture capital groups in the industry.

VC-backed Travelport snapped up rival GDS Worldspan earlier this month, and just a few days later and Travelocity owner Sabre Holdings was sold for a cool $3.75 billion.

Nobody is really sure as yet as to what the long-term effects will be on an industry that arguably needs stability, but in many respects is seeing large swathes being run by short-termist investors.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution


mlf said...

VC money = no strategy

madison said...

What a whirlwind year for everyone involved in the online travel industry. A tough summer but the online guys are doing well.

Ashish Mohta said...

yeah online bisiness will boom next yr
I also got entry in darrens project.

And i am feeding your blog.There wont be another chance to meet so many bloggers

Merry Christmas

nick said...

Great summary of the online travel market in 2006. I found you through Problogger, and my own 2007 travel predictions are up at

patrick said...

yes summer 2007 will be mostly for WAYN members ;) we should make huge part or something ;) honestly great site rule travel industry for good ;)

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