Saturday, September 01, 2007

Meta-search and GDS: Bezurk and Amadeus do a deal

Asian meta-search company and European GDS giant Amadeus are officially working together. A deal was announced last week for Bezurk to use the Amadeus web services product known as Meta-Pricer. This does not mean that Bezurk will move to doing its own bookings. Rather the deal is to reduce the toll that Bezurk places on the websites of its airline partners. Here is the press release.

It is an unexpected twist for a meta-search partner to seek out a deal with a GDS so I wrote to Bezurk CEO Martin Symes to get the inside scope. Here is our exchange.

BOOT Asks: Why do you need GDS help?

Martin Symes Answers: Using Amadeus MetaPricer to access airline fares and availability does a few things for us:
  1. Improves our supplier proposition – offer airlines a no cost solution
  2. Streamlines number of places we need to go to get fares/availability
  3. Speeds up response times – gets results to users faster
Most important is the first reason. The airlines we work with have a wide variety of approaches to getting their fares on to their websites. Some connect straight to their host systems from their internet booking engine (IBE). Some have a cache sitting between their host and the IBE. Some use the host of one of the GDS's. Many use a third party IBE which accesses their own host. Each of these arrangements has it's own technical constraints and economics associated with giving 3rd parties access to the data on any sort of scale.

Many carriers that embraced search engine marketing some time ago offer travel search engines access to API's, which typically query a cache populated predominantly by natural search traffic. Unfortunately many carriers don't yet offer these direct API's, although some have plans to do so. In some cases, we have been asked to provide advice on the design of these.

This has meant that screenscraping has been the next best means of us getting access to airline data. Screenscraping works perfectly fine for many airlines which have a system with sufficient capacity, are fast enough, can control and track access, have a layout that doesn't require multiple page requests per query and who aren't getting billed per query by a 3rd party company running their IBE or host for them.

So for reasons both technical and economic, screenscraping is not always a viable means of us getting the data we need. In these situations Amadeus MetaPricer is a good solution because there is no cost to the carriers or extra load placed on their websites because we are querying fares and availability via the Amadeus system. The only thing the carrier needs to do is distribute their fares to our Amadeus Office Id's for each point of sale.

BOOT Asks: Why Amadeus?

Martin Symes Answers: We issued a mini-RFP to all the GDS’s; Amadeus’ response was the most appropriate from a functionality and price perspective. We have also found them to be very responsive to deal with.

BOOT Asks: Who's paying?

Martin Answers: We pay a nominal fee per query; which is more than covered by the revenue we generate from the commercial agreements we have with our airline partners.

BOOT Asks: What about the non-GDS participating airlines like Air Asia, Virgin Blue, Jetstar, Tiger?

Martin Answers: We continue to maintain direct connectivity with non-GDS airlines; many of which are able to provide access to their inventory through API’s or via screenscraping their public websites, where they have given us permission to do so.

BOOT Asks Are non-airline sites (ie hotles) concerned about the number of searches you are doing? If so, what's the plan?

Martin Answers: We work closely with our OTA and hotel partners and have developed unique search methodologies for each partner to minimise any impact. The conversion rates and therefore incremental revenue benefit we drive for our partners far outweighs any search cost issues they may have.

I was going to write that this was the first GDS and meta-search deal but after some investigating found that back in 2001 Amadeus did a deal with Sidestep. Am told by an Amadeus spokesperson that this 2001 is very different to the Meta-Pricer deal with Bezurk. The first difference is that the 2001 deal was a lower level of connectivity (an API vs Web Services) and secondly it was not for the full searching capability that is in this deal - this one includes fares.

Will give them the benefit of the doubt and agree for now that this is a first of its kind. UPDATE - Kevin at Travolution points out in the comments that Kayak and Amadeus entered into the first meta-pricer deal.

It raises some interesting questions about the ability of supplier and OTA sites/systems to support the pounding that meta-search companies threaten to deliver and of the GDS' companies continued efforts to re-invent themselves as technology companies. I get the product reason behind Bezurk's decision here as they need to continue to improve the product delivery to their inventory providers. Is further proof that the meta-search model is still in development and I hope that this deal helps Bezurk continue to grow its product range.


Travolution Blogger said...

Amadeus also signed a deal with Kayak in February this year for the Meta Pricer product.

Europe-only, but still it was the first deal.

Press release here.

Tim Hughes said...

Kevin. Thanks. Tim

Anonymous said...

Also # 4 in his resonse.

Credibility and looks better for prospective buyer