Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wotif.com launches 90 days of inventory on January 27

As I mentioned back in May, Wotif is planning to extend the window for booking of inventory from the current 28 days out to 365 days. An email is going round to hotels today announcing that as of January 27 the first step in that plan will be launched with the Wotif extranet beting extended to take inventory up to 90 days out. No word on what that will mean for changes to the search display. Currently consumers do not enter in dates to get search results. Instead they are present with a grid format showing inventory availability over a 14 day period with an option to click to the "next seven days". I assume that to cover 90 days worth of inventory Wotif will have to change this interface and add date search.

If I am right then there are some challenges ahead for Wotif during the roll out of this new functionality. It is one thing to change the back end and have to train hoteliers on an updated system. This is a painful but relatively manageable task. It is another to manage the impact on consumer behaviour of a dramatic change in the consumer booking process. As they say on CNN - only time will tell.

13 comments:

Scott Smith said...

I don't know that the perceived need is going to be there in 2009. Conservative consumerism for the next few months is probably a bad omen for major changes of this nature. And with the SS Roamfree having hit its 'book 25 years in advance' iceberg and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, who needs it?

Hjalte W. Frandsen said...

Anyway.. In my experience wotif.com's rates for hotels have a hard time competing against some of the great aggregatorsites.

A site like Momondo.com has far greater functionality and often better rates.

Instead of listing the hotels of the destination in a grid they are shown on a map of the city which is essential if you want to avoid ending up in a hotel miles away from the city center!

Check out Momondo.com, its worth a visit.. or ten..

Steve Sherlock said...

i dont have any inside info, but i doubt very much that the user expeirence will change much.

maybe a link to optionally use dates (0utside normal nav) or a month tab on the results page to allow user to move one month ahead in one click.

if you look at www.archive.org the wotif site has hardly change in look over the years (just better graphics and wider home page).

but one danger is that the brand can start to mean something different than "last minute bargains" if you can get other than last minute.

Steve

Tim Hughes said...

It is one thing to get hotels to load more inventory but I dont think the current Wotif search process can support finding that inventory. No way are consumers going to click the "next seven days" 8 times to find a room in late March. Then if the consumers cant find it, they cant book it and the hotels stop loading...next you know the 90 day change is a flop

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing to observe here is how will it change the distribution channel and trade relationships. How are Australian hotels going to manage their relationships with wholesalers now that they can distribute their inventory outside the last minute window for 10% (though a partner with huge demand). How are wholesalers going to enforce rate parity when their margins are greater. Will WTF put the acid on suppliers to get exclusive pricing outside 28 days? Will hoteliers look for diversification in their distribution channel and push back on this?

Anonymous said...

Tim

Are you going to let Hjalte from Momondo get away with trying to promote his website. Its shameless expecially considering that his site still needs loads of improvement to be compared with Wotif

Steve Sherlock said...

im not a fan of meta search that compares the comparers.

I'd prefer a comparison site that compares only the suppliers' rates where a best rate guarantees apply. which is pretty much what wotif does.

as price parity matures I think the direct comparison model, compared to meta search, is the better horse to be on.

Tim Hughes said...

@Anon2 - No doubt Hjalte is spamming me. Sometimes I let them through because I think it embarrasses the spammer more to keep them on than to delete them. Right now you , me and others on the post are thinking negatively about Momondo because they have chosen to spam the post. I think that is better punishment than to delete. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim

Aon2 here : I like your thinking as everyone who reads the comments thread will now have a laugh at their expense.

Robert said...

FWIW, Wotif has had the option of viewing a map with hotels marked on it on the search result pages for several years.

(Yes, I work for Wotif)

Jonathan said...

Like Steve Sherlock, I am wondering what effect this will have on their image.

With people looking for bargains more now than ever before, I am surprised that they are stepping away from being a "last minute" site. If they offer the same rates outside of the 28 day window, they will damage the "perceived benefit" of booking close to the travel date that they have worked so hard to create.

Tim Hughes said...

@Jonathan - good question. The other part to the question is "will consumers notice?". Put another way "will consumers let the brand of Wotif extend beyond last minute planning." There are many examples of brands trying to make natural extensions and customers simply ignoring the effort. In travel we need look no further than Hotels.com trying to selling packaging using Expedia technology. No one cared or used it. The consumers would not let the Hotels.com brand move from hotels to air and car. Look to pricegrabber.com and Amazon trying to launch travel channels. Despite millions of customers looking to spend money, neither pricegrabber or amazon could convince those customers to extend the brand to travel.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer - I'm ex-Wotif (a long time ago). Two things that point to them being able to pull this off:

1. They are excellent at user experience, and if anyone can do this well, it's them. A lot of people tend to dismiss Wotif in this area - but look at their site - it basically hasn't changed for 6 years. They've made small incremental improvements, of course, but fundamentally it's the same. This is actually very clever - they found something that works and they resist the temptation to change it every year.

2. The brand "Wotif" has gone beyond last minute hotels. It did this a long time ago - I don't think any kind of extension in the accommodation area is beyond them. Their excellent service and brand will keep people coming back - 14 days, 28 days or 90 days.