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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Content is King

Over the past few years we've seen a huge rise in the meta search engines, such as Kayak, SkyScanner, Farecast (now part of Microsoft Bing). These meta search engines crawl the web on your behalf to understand, read and record the information that varied online travel agencies (OTA) are publishing. These services give users the ability to enter search requests and in response receive an abundance of pricing from across the web. In seconds offers from ebookers, Expedia, Opodo and many more are returned. Users simply select the deal that's appealing, click a link and they are instantly transported to the OTA for payment.

Like meta search engines, the business travel community want a single view of inventory at a hotel, across all major booking channels to view the best deal and then book it. For all the power Hoteliers are given for yield and channel management, consumers are trying their best to beat the system for the lowest rate, wherever it is.

In business travel the biggest prize was how many hotels you had in your database, then how many can be booked online and finally how many of those are duplicates... No longer is the case. Content within business travel is about the quality of the product the OTA, GDS, Merchant or Direct Connect is providing. Questions are raised on; how long does it take to book, payment terms, commission, how much back-end resource is required, what key locations are covered for specific suppliers.

Over the past couple of years we have seen growth in the request for consumer OTAs to be included within the Conferma Booking Platform. Many OTAs offer affiliate schemes for agencies to join, with a major benefit of receiving commission from one supplier, the OTA, not through chasing each hotel.

The Conferma Booking Platform connects to all major GDS, multiple Direct Connects, OTAs and Merchants plus support for Offline and Allocation content. Agencies have the power to pick and choose what content they would like made available and hold their own agreements with the Content Providers. The Conferma Booking Platform is built on an architecture that allows us to easily add new content without having to make a single code change to our booking tool (in the majority of cases new providers can be implemented in six weeks).

Trends in the consumer travel sector steer the future of business travel, and at Conferma we’re positioned to react quickly.

Ps. 160'000 unique hotels (130'000 online (and no duplicates))

Monday, 21 November 2011

The importance of choice

The recent news that International Airlines Group (IAG) are in negotiations with Lufthansa to acquire British Midland (BMI) has raised concerns in the aviation community. The acquisition of BMI would see IAG, who already own British Airways and Iberia, increase its share of landing slots at Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, rise from 45% to 54%.

The Leicestershire based carrier has reported losses of 154m euros (£133m; $213) for the first nine months of 2011, citing rising fuel costs and social unrest in some of its destinations in North Africa and the Middle East as reasons.

Amid growing concerns that IAG are monopolising Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic, who have tabled a rival bid to acquire the loss-making carrier, have described the prospect of an IAG takeover as "disastrous for consumer choice and competition".

Consumer choice is one of the fundamental aspects that Conferma, expert providers of settlement and reconciliation solutions to the Travel and Expenses (T&E) sector, values greatly. Providing access to multiple GDS and non-GDS content providers, Conferma prides itself on its vast and varied suite of content. Our award-winning Conferma Settlement Platform (CSP) can be seamlessly integrated into all systems, therefore we can partner with any card issuing bank or payments provider.

Conferma, who itself has recently expanded its own portfolio to offer payment solutions for low-cost carriers, is proud of its independence. Furthermore, Conferma’s neutrality endears it to an extensive network of travel and banking partners. This neutrality allows Conferma to maximise the number of potential opportunities in the business travel market and encourages competition amongst its partners.

Only time will tell if IAG's acquisition of BMI will deprive Heathrow of healthy competition and consumer choice.