Monday, August 14, 2006

Buying travel in the new old world

Am working on a family holiday. Is all a bit of a shock - not only do I have to make plans that include a second brand new child (I now have a three month old daughter) but I may have to pay full/normal price for hotels and flights. I have enjoyed industry rates and specials for so long that have forgotten what normal prices a like.

It has also given me a chance to test a few former competitors (and employers) and a few offline channels. Had a great informative experience today exploring booking a family package holiday offline. In a classic Internet generation way I called Qantas Holidays knowing where I wanted to go, the hotel I wanted to stay at and the price/deal that Qantas needed to beat to get my money. I found the relevant Qantas Holiday brochure online, investigated the flight options and then game them a call.

"Welcome to Qantas Holidays, this is Janine, how can I help you"

"Yes, I would like to go to [destination] and stay at [this hotel]"

She collected my basic details on number of people, ages and dates then typed away into Callypso and said "With that size family you will need to have two adjoining rooms".

"But" I said "this hotel doesn't have interconnecting rooms - it only has beach side bungalows - the rooms don't physically connect"

"Oh - you're right, but the system wont let me put two children in one bungalow with you. You'll have to book two".

"The hotels own website says that it can sleep two children in a bungalow with two paying adults" I add.

"That may be right but there is nothing I can do to change the room set up in the system" she blandly replies.

"OK - Thanks but no thanks....." click.

Running Qantas Holidays cannot be cheap for Qantas. They have tech costs that rival most of the larger online retailers, they print brochures by the truck load, put ads every other day in the travel sections of every newspaper sponsor half of the major travel shows on commercial television. Yet when it comes to booking they are as inflexible in their packaging now as they were 15 years ago. Another note to Qantas - no matter what the cost, you will need to upgrade your tech and product process or else very soon, Webjet and Zuji will take away even more of your holiday business with no chance of recovery.


Anonymous said...

so what are your thoughts on Jetstar Holidays?

Tim Hughes said...

Haven't used them but done properly they should be a huge hit. The problem is that Qantas do not yet have a proven track record of doing it properly online. Sure they are the biggest online travel site in Australia - but they should be. Achieving number one online should be easy for the number one travel brand in Australia. As an airline they have executed online well (not brilliantly, but well). They have online only fares, they have split most of their inventory into one way fares and they have a usable website that tells frequent and non-frequent flyers pretty much everything your need to know about booking, flying and consuming Qantas. However in non-air (hotel, car, and insurance) they have executed poorly. They were at least 3 years too late in launching ReadyRooms, the cross sell from the air purchase path to ReadyRooms is not compelling and the inventory depth is shallow compared to Wotif, RatesToGo and Lastminute. Qantas should be leading online packaging in Australia as they have all the content but they have not executed on the technology to make it happen. Jetstar should be easier because they do not have a legacy business to protect like Qantas but it depends on two factors - 1. can they make technology decisions unencumbered by Qantas processes so they can sidestep Calypso and ReadyRooms for hotel content and provide a better cross sell engine and 2. agree to pricing and availability with hotels that is different to Qantas Holidays.

In other words if Jestar Holidays is just a re-brand of Qantas Holidays then it will fail online. If they invest in it as a truly online product then it will succeed.

Thanks for you question.

Anonymous said...

The comment counter on the main page does not seem to be working as it shows 0 comments for this post

Tim Hughes said...

I found that too. It seems you have refresh the page a few times to clear your cached version of the blog.