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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Curated flight-search recommendations are a step forward, as long as they are not self-serving and don’t obliterate the option of conducting more extensive searches.
The aches and angst of travel search was an underlying theme and flash point at PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit, and Amadeus, with online travel agency Vayama as a launch partner, touted a pain reliever.
The Madrid-based technology company and global distribution system introduced Amadeus Featured Results, which cuts through the clutter of what sometimes amounts to well over 1 billion flight combinations from point A to Z, and displays four featured search results per query, incuding one sponsored result.
Whether it was Rome2Rio’s sorting of complex air, train, bus, car and ferry options or DealAngel performing analytic due diligence on a bevy of non-bargain hotel deals, some of the presenters at the startup competition offered their solutions for solving the perennial problem of traveler frustration over the mindnumbing process of conducting travel research.
Vayama’s beta, using Amadeus as the technology backdrop, presents four featured flight options — the cheapest, the fastest, the most popular and a sponsored result — as it “stores and analyzes live and historical global search and reservations data in order to factor in price volatility and itinerary popularity,” Amadeus says.
Amadeus Featured Results is fast — at least it was in the demos of the product — and beyond the four featured results, it enables an online travel agency to display more comprehensive results down the page. The technology will be available to Amadeus customers in 2013.
Ted Jansen, Vayama’s executive vice president for the Americas said conversions have increased 16% in the beta since debuting the new search functionality.
“It’s real money,” Jansen said.
Give travelers what they want
The Amadeus presentation kicked off a debate during the conference sessions and outside them about whether travelers want such curation or fine-tuned flight recommendations, or whether they desire comprehensiveness and more choice.
Does it ease the flight-search process for consumers, or does it rip off consumers by limiting their options and give them inferior choices from airlines that are bookable in the Amadeus GDS?
Some argued that Amadeus Featured Results and Hipmunk’s flight search interface — which attacks the same problem but in a different way — provide a counterpoint to the comprehensiveness (some might call it the overwhelming nature) of Google Flight Search, and could spur Google to tweak its interface to meet the challenge.
ITA Software, which provides the foundation for Google Flight Search, has behind the scenes been writing algorithms to curate flight-search results for more than a decade, limiting answers to those that it thinks are the most practical and relevant to consumers.
Need trusted recommendations
Hugo Burge, CEO of the newly rebranded Momondo Group, which includes metasearcher Momondo and deal-searcher Cheapflights, came down on the side of curation, but noted that credibility is a key factor.
“Consumers don’t mind getting recommendations, but not at the expense of all options,” Burge said, adding that travelers want to make sure that flight-search companies “have looked at all the options.”
In fact, Momondo recently began dissecting and presenting results by “cheapest,” “quickest,” “best fit,” and “worst fit,” with dozens of other flight-search results spilling beneath the featured displays and running down the page.
“Everyone’s trying to find relvance in a digestible, turstworthy format,” Burge said. “No one want to wade through all the information.”
Meanwhile, Chris Lopinto, co-founder of seat-alert provider ExpertFlyer, sees Amadeus Featured Results “as useful for a lot of users,” particularly leisure travelers.
“Competition raises everyone’s game,” Lopinto said. “Maybe ITA will do something about it.”