|Are search engines creating loyalty?|
Thursday, 28th June 2007
Source : Eye for Travel
The recent past has proved to be quite an eventful period for Asia Pacific travel search engine Bezurk.com -
If on one hand, Bezurk.com launched a new Flight Search product that searches multiple airline and travel agencies, on the other the company also signed a spate of deals including ones with Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts, Carlson Hotels, New Zealand’s independent news publication Scoop.co.nz and Qatar Airways.
Bezurk’s distribution network has enjoyed considerable growth in the past six months, according to its Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Craig Hewett. He attributed such progress to its distribution partners Yahoo South East Asia, Lonely Planet, Changi Airport and News Limited in Australia and growing affiliate partners.
“We are in a fortunate position as we have extended our footprint across South East Asia and Australia thus exposing our search engine to a varied and growing online travel market. Our flights engine is proving very popular, especially since we launched our new display matrix – which allows consumers to quickly compare across airlines and across booking websites,” said Hewett.
Hewett also spoke about target audience, how hotel deliverables have contributed towards flights engine, plans ahead etc. Excerpts from an interview with EyeforTravel.com’s Ritesh Gupta.
Early last year, you acknowledged that the team had under-estimated the complexity of building a comprehensive hotel search engine. How do you assess the progress made by Bezurk.com in the last year or so?
Building a really poor hotel search engine is easy, but to build an engine which extracts all the hotel data and pricing for the same hotel as its referenced across multiple booking websites, is extremely difficult.
The biggest challenge which we faced was matching the same hotel across multiple websites, as there is no universal hotel identifier across hotel booking websites for the same hotel e.g. Every hotel website which we search has their own property/hotel id for lets say “Holiday Inn Singapore”. Add to this the fact that some of these sites are selling different room types with booking restrictions and some on a request basis.
One of the key consumer benefits which we deliver is that if a consumer is interested in comparing the Holiday Inn Singapore across different websites they can easily compare price, booking conditions, room type and instant confirmation across multiple websites who sell the hotel.
Could you share info on hotel search engine and how hotel deliverables have contributed towards flights engine?
These two products are vastly different with varying sophistication across suppliers – the only similarity is the way in which we have approached both product categories – which is ensuring that we deliver rich data – designed to empower a user’s purchase decision.
How would you describe your target audience?
Its common knowledge that one size does not fit all across Asia. We are mindful of the booking nuances of our target markets both in terms of consumers as well as the online travel companies who operate in these markets. Our Bezurk platform is highly configurable and scalable for the Asia Pacific region, so that we can effectively tailor Bezurk for different audience.
During our event last year, a search engine senior executive, speaking about Asia said language issues are not the predominate factor. Rather local economies, their maturation and intricacies really determine market entry. How has the comfort level with online booking and payment increased in this region from travel meta-search engine perspective?
Travel meta search is about delivering travel content which assists a consumer during their research period thus helping them make a purchase decision. We know that a portion of Bezurk users who reside in less developed online markets will compare travel options using our search and sort filters and then complete their reservation with the travel supplier offline which overcomes any issues with online payment concerns.
If all travel meta search engines harp about keeping their home pages clear and simple, then what differentiates the experience? Is it depth of the search or speed? Basically, how do you think consumers are going to strengthen a bond with a particular meta-search engine?
Going back to my earlier comment about how easy it is to build a really poor meta search experience there are some considerable barriers to building one which strengthens a bond with consumers.
I agree with you that the depth of the search needs to be extensive and delivered quickly and intuitively. In 2008, you will see considerable innovation in UI designs using AJAX which will allow users to quickly compare extensive travel data in a simple and rewarding manner.
You had also referred to planned customer centric innovations which will be designed to create loyalty through usefulness. Could you elaborate on this?
Our recent matrix UI design for flights is a perfect example where Bezurk is creating loyalty through usefulness by displaying disparate fare data in format which is easier for users to quickly and intuitively compare best fare options across multiple websites.
Travel meta-search engines in the US have been acquiring social networking sites. How do you view this trend?
Meta search is all about delivering convenience and rich user experience to users and social generated content if integrated correctly can add to this experience. So in principle is a smart idea.
Talking from trade perspective, how are suppliers benefiting from you whether its suppliers are shown in a real time environment and benefiting from a smooth integration into their own web site all the way to the point of purchase or getting access to your statistics etc?
A lot has to do with the tools and functionality which qualifies a customer before a supplier incurs a cost. We provide a great deal of valuable product information on Bezurk for both hotels and flights which can easily be sorted and filtered using our Rich UI – so that a user is presented with only relevant choice before they click into partner website
Bezurk has made considerable inroads with key portal distribution partners across the South East Asia and Australia regions so we now offer exposure to highly targeted customers using, News Limited (www.news.com.au/travel ) Lonely Planet and Yahoo SE. Our Distribution economics are a lot more efficient than should our suppliers try and deal direct with these portals.
Bezurk’s Craig Hewett is scheduled to present during the forthcoming Sales and Marketing in Travel Asia Pacific 2007 to be held in Sydney on 18-19 July. More information can be obtained at: