Global Distribution Systems, Social Networking, Local Knowledge, Vertical Search and Meta Search are encroaching on the traditional search territory. Meta Search travel sites, like Kayak, offer better search for travel. Social networks and consumer sites like TripAdvisor, are improving the travel experience by offering relevant unbiased advice, much favored over paid search results.

Social networking sites, like TripAdvisor (acquired by Expedia) and IgoUgo (acquired by Travelocity), are taking searches away from traditional search engines.
Kayak now receives more than 6 million unique visitors a month. Expedia has caught Google’s attention, but for now, seems not to be a takeover target! They are moving, instead, to create more social media and community content. Already, about 50% of travelers use some sort of online social media site to research their plans, says Rob Torres, Google’s Managing Director for Travel.

And now, we have Web 3.0 agents like Uptake, a variation on Meta search, promising to simplify the travel research and planning process, by amalgamating and personalizing the whole lot.

The erosion of search in favour of these sites is with good reason. The travel technology platform has developed far beyond the capabilities of generic search.

Travelers need to know details on costs and features that are specific to their own unique requirements.

Travel Search engines, like Kayak and Sidestep (acquired by Kayak), do this. Underlying is a travel platform, including bookings and quotation systems, like, and integrated solutions. like

Traditional search engines just don’t deliver these precise results. Try looking for a hotel near Bridgetown, in Barbados, in the price range of $250 to $500. Google will give you a lot of results, mostly links to booking sites. You need to go to a booking or quotation site like for this. Try searching for Barbados 5 star hotels, chances are that Sandy Lane, voted one of the top ten Hotels in the world, will not be in the top lists. As the search engines move further down the road to paid clicks, search results become even more eroded, less relevant and still imprecise.

In addition to these trends, their is a growing list of specialty local sites like AXSES’ own, Barbados Bookings and reservations center and trip planning. These sites put users in contact with Hotels directly. More and more travelers want to contact their host. They feel they have better communications with a hotel as opposed to a Meta site dealing with thousands of properties and thousands more travelers. The smaller regional sites also provide better on-the-location information, giving local knowledge and advice. Sites, like, help travelers put together their own, made to measure, itinerary, with options that may not be found anywhere else. Like stargazing with Leo: bring your own wine, he supplies the telescope and the story of the stars. You will not find that on Expedia or Kayak.

“Seeking information and looking for perspective–like-minded experience and judgments–are currently trumping the straightforward hunt for the best price”, says Douglas Quinby, Senior Director of Research at PhoCusWright.

What we need is more consolidation through advanced information engineering. The future web will be about bringing services and technology together in a powerful information delivery system. New technology, such as and, using advanced Web 3.0 techniques and creating expert systems from layers of knowledge and professional understanding, are doing just that.

Ian R. Clayton, AXSES


Connecting You With Your Intimate Bot (Semantic Web 3.0)
The Gap In Google’s Defenses (virtual search)
Travel Web Sites Get Personal
Advertising at a Crossroads


Who is the supplier of travel?
It worries me that many of our small hotel and tourism customers do not perceive themselves as suppliers. They often see themselves as a product, supplied to the market by middlemen. Nothing is further from the truth. The tourism operator and hotel owner is the supplier of rooms and of an experience. Together, these make up the core product of a holiday. The hotel owner should choose to be inventive and create total packages that fulfill the traveller’s dream.

Ultimately, travel marketing is about selling a dream, and each hotel is distinct, offering a unique experience. All of the tools the hotel needs to package an experience, including airfare, are available for direct bookings.

Believing that middlemen are suppliers erodes the hotel brand and places market leadership in the wrong hands. When consumers go to online channels to book reservations, they are influenced as much by the channel used to book the reservation as they by the hotel they selected.

It is time to take control.

Control of the channel is not about getting more sales out of middlemen; it is about offering a service, marketing your own brand and engaging customers directly; getting high-margin sales at lowest cost. It is about being in control of your market and your brand.

Max Starkov, Chief eBusiness Strategist, Hospitality eBusiness Strategies, writes, “The Internet is all about transparency, efficient distribution of information, and inexpensive e-commerce transactions. It is, simply, the best direct-to-consumer distribution channel ever created and it definitely favors supplier-buyer relationships.”

The trend is clear: the Internet is revolutionizing marketing with more and more travellers choosing to go to the supplier’s website and book direct rather than with a middleman. Travellers say they feel they have more control working with the supplier directly, but they expect rates and services to be comparable.

There are now new tools and services for travel suppliers to help them provide the full set of interactive and social networking solutions expected. AXSES has been a pioneer, providing ‘supplier-centered tools’ to manage and distribute travel products. These can be installed directly on the supplier’s own website. They include:

Airfare Search and Book, that can be put right on the hotel website;
Dynamic Packaging for suppliers, that adds activities matching travellers’ profiles;
RSS feeds, blogs, travellers’ comments and travellers’ ratings;
Website Booking Engine;
Rates Management; and
A range of travel components that hotels can put on their sites.

All of these may be integrated with:
Hotel Property Management Systems;
Global Distribution Systems (GDS); and
The Internet Distribution Companies, like Expedia.

What the middlemen do well is offer comparison shopping and search capabilities. AXSES bookings and reservation portals, like, and, provides this also, but with this twist – requests and bookings are made directly with the hotel. (see AXSES arcRes Supplier Travel Suites).

Unlike middlemen systems, the supplier is not hidden and travellers can go direct to the supplier website at any time. There are pop-ups and standard views of the information which travellers like, as supplier websites follow no standard and it is confusing to compare several. All information on the direct channel (including website’s content, amenities and features) is under the control of the Hotel.

These new tools are different to middlemen solutions for suppliers and destinations. The supplier-centered tools are designed from the ground up for suppliers, i.e., hotels, apartments, villas, activities and all tourism operators. They are configured to any set of rules and rate options. The tools are a powerful set of integrated suites to give tourism suppliers more high profit DIRECT business.

But be wary, not all who claim to be direct are! Some marketers are jumping on the bandwagon, without credentials. A direct channel will not hide your brand; in fact, direct is about marketing your brand. A direct channel will allow users to go to your website and will not require guests to prepay the booking, deposit it in their bank, and pay you the balance less commissions. A direct channel gives you control of revenue, payment options, terms, content, rules, branding and customers.

In 2007, 60% of online travellers chose to BUY Direct from the supplier, bypassing the middleman. The trend to direct is expected to continue. Merrill Lynch forecasts that it will exceed 65% in the next 2 years. Currently, the large chains receive over 80% of online business direct (see trends).

We need to gear up now for this market and take control!
Ian R. Clayton, AXSES


At AXSES, we have been musing about the Internet advertising business, wondering how it will evolve. With Google losing ground to other choices such as Social Networking, Meta search, bookings and interactive services, it will not be long before they morph their business to give travellers what they want. For now, Google has decided not go the bookings route. They did not buy Expedia, as had been rumoured. Google opted to move more into social networking; see Google Travel Plans. MSN in contrast is moving to interactive shopping, with its purchase of Farecast.

In our view, the days of static ads and lists that link to websites are limited. We expect to see this change even on the search engines. Travellers need to be able to compare options and get fully-costed holidays at a click. Google is retiring its AdSense referral program, that allowed almost any website to display Google static ads and get paid per click. In its place is the Google Affiliate Network, which pays based on a purchase.

Hitwise, the Internet statistics company, recently noted a significant shift in searchers favouring Branded searches. “I looked at the top 300 search terms sending visits to Travel websites and found that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of visits from these queries were from branded search terms such as Hilton hotels or Expedia in the four weeks ending April 26, 2008”, reported Heather Hopkins, VP Research, Hitwise UK.

Simply put, the Hitwise findings mean searchers are now looking more for names they know and not relying as much on generic terms. If the trend continues, it will mean that we can’t rely on the search engines to help people discover our hotels for the first time. We can’t rely on a middleman to market us! Marketing ourselves is something we can’t avoid.

In light of the trends to buy direct, it is interesting that Expedia is a top of mind search term. Yet, Expedia reports unofficially, that 70% of visitors to their site use their list to find resorts matching a budget, and then go directly to the resort website to make a contact and book. Ninety-five percent of Expedia visitors do not buy from Expedia.

Aware of this trend, Expedia introduced a Cost per Click (CPC) advertising option, similar to Google. Interesting indeed! Has Expedia seen the writing on the wall? Perhaps they got the idea that they were the new search engine for travel. So now, instead of paying 25-30% in commission, advertisers are paying 30-40% and don’t have any control over their brand.

The Cost per Click (CPC), is the cost to deliver a single customer to a website as a result of a paid listing or advertisement on a medium such as Google or

In a recent study of advertising costs, AXSES revealed that the Cost per Click on is now often less than 20 percent of costs on sites such as Google. advertisements, up until now, have been static ads that link travellers to the advertiser’s website. In addition, offers a free listing for every resort in the destination of Barbados – all of them, not just advertisers.

This will not be so for long. Our next release will make these ads interactive and link directly to dynamic quotation, reserve and book options. Of course, all links go directly to the advertisers.

What this means is that advertisers will have interactive advertisements that allow travellers to get an immediate quote and to reserve or book a holiday package, including air, online, on almost every advertisement and listing on Travellers will now be able to click a button on the advertisement itself and make a booking directly with the hotel right there and then, and this is right across all media, even on Google Maps. Pretty powerful, when you consider that Maps are on the Google website: (Google Maps)
as well as on Map pages (

This facility significantly enhances the Direct e-commerce bookings that have been a feature of the suite of websites for the past three years.

Typically, marketing services that include quotes and booking are available via middlemen channels, such as Expedia, which take 18-30% of every sale.

The trend is clear: the Internet is revolutionizing marketing with more and more travellers choosing to go to the supplier’s website and book direct rather than through a middleman. Travellers say they feel they have more control working with the supplier directly, but they expect rates and services to be comparable.

Couple low CPC advertising with bookable ads and the supplier-centered technologies now in place with arcRes Suites, AXSES travel platform and other supplier-centered features, and you get a powerful direct marketing solution.

Enhancing supplier’s brand and delivering commission free business directly to the tourism operator.

Giving control back to the supplier.

We look forward to hearing from. Do you agree, do you have a point of view? Please let us know what you know!

Ian R. Clayton, AXSES

See PowerPoint concept and rational: – example of classification list
– feature – – – banner/body text box

bookable maps



Over the next few weeks, I will be laying out our view of what we, at AXSES, think is in store for travel marketing on the Internet, what works and why.

Our vision is tempered by current research, the opinions of people in the business and our own experience. It is an optimistic view, one that holds that the Internet is drastically changing marketing to the advantage of the supplier. The Internet does level the playing field and every small operate has a voice.

The articles are supplier-centered. With travel buying moving to the Internet, it is important that we understand how the Internet is changing and what it will mean to suppliers. The articles will deal with how best to optimize your Internet marketing, your brand and your control of distribution.
We look forward to your comments and feedback. Your ideas for new articles would be greatly appreciated. Please also let us know if you prefer not to get the emails.

The following is a list of what the first articles will address:

Who is the Supplier anyway?

This article explores the changing face of who is in control, how control is shifting to suppliers, and why.

Travel Advertising at a Crossroads

Are static links and Banners ads still relevant? This article explains how advertising is changing and how AXSES is leading the move to fully interactive advertisements, that allow visitors to look and book, even from a map.

Travel Search at a Crossroads

Search is losing ground to other media. This article explores how that shift is happening and what it means.

Destination Marketing at a Crossroads

Destination guides are one of the first places travellers look. We consider how to keep them on the site and get them back when they leave.

Travel Distribution at a Crossroads

We will look at the changing relevance of GDS and its role as supplier of content to other Internet Distribution Companies. Our emphasis is what should the supplier do to optimise distribution and why. GDS history | 2-Way Seamless Integration | Chain Codes | IDS will be covered.

Marketing at a Crossroads

The 4 P’s of marketing are no longer Product, Price, Place and Promotion. The Internet has changed all of that. Jason McNamara, CMO of Alterian, says there are now 5P’s: People, Process, Platform, Partners and Passion.

Internet at a Crossroads

Web 3.0 is here! What will it mean to the travel supplier? This article will explain what Web 3.0 is all about and how it will change the way travellers use the Internet.