I have just published an overview of the Online Travel segment. You may want to read that, before reading this review.
In this section we will analyze the Yahoo! Travel site based on the Web 3.0 framework. The site provides information on travel destinations, best bargains on hotel and travel fares. It has an attractive interface and navigation is simple and easy. However, as a late entrant, it needs to do so much more to differentiate and become a “destination”.
Yahoo! Travel has a very broad and vivid categorization, which gives the users both convenience and ease of choice while planning for their trip. The site provides good contextual information for both leisure travelers and business travelers.
There are eight sub categories, Travel Guide, Hotels, Flights, Cars, Cruises, Vacations, Deals and FareChase. The Deals section has four sub categories (Popular Categories, Lifestyle, Price and More Deal Providers), which have been further categorized to aid users search for deals easily.
Like all other Yahoo! sites the Travel site is also rich in content. The site allows users to search and book flights, hotels, cars, and also plan for their travel.
The Travel Guides section, for example, provides detailed information on more than 40,000 cities and 500,000 places to stay across the world along with reviews, maps and pictures of these locations. It also covers the history, culture, accommodation, festivals and carnivals, dining, drinking, nightlife entertainment, shopping, sports, special attractions of these locations. This apart, Travel Guide also contains maps, weather reports and currency converters for each place.
Yahoo! currently provides Travel content on Mobile through a partnership with Travelocity through Yahoo! Everywhere, which has agreement with service providers and manufacturers of Web-connected devices in 26 countries where it provides the same travel content in 14 languages.
Yahoo! Travel through its partnership with Travelocity and other sites provide users booking facilities, which enables it to earn commission on the flights, hotels, vacations, cruises or cars booked through its sites. There is, however, nothing differentiated in its offering versus other more established providers of travel booking.
Yahoo! has been lagging in community features and in its Yahoo! Travel site, it tries to do a decent job of integrating consumer generated media like reviews, RSS Feeds, message boards and Flickr. Flickr is an interesting integration as it allows users to share their travel photographs. This is Yahoo! Travel’s most powerful repository of user generated content, and creating better ways for the travel community to engage around it would be an excellent leverage.
The site also allows users to share their trip plans. Though the site has message boards and reviews posted by users, it lacks punch and the site would do well to integrate videos, discussion forums, chat with travel advisors, blogs on important destinations, etc. to increase the level of engagement.
I wrote a few posts, one on how to incentivize user generated content and one on how Washington Post’s Blogroll has collected 100 Blogs that Lufthansa has bought CPM advertising on. I believe, Yahoo should do a much better job incenting and harnessing user generated content, as well as creating blog networks so that advertisers can buy ad inventory on them as a block, just like Lufthansa did.
Yahoo! Travel offers personalization through My Yahoo! It enables users to plan their trip, check and track their reservations and travel profiles, receive emails and alerts on various travel destinations, fares and newsletters, sharing of trips, etc. The site also allows users to copy and customize someone else’s trip plan.
Nonetheless, there is no personalization based on travel styles (luxury, backpacking, culture, outdoors, romantic bed&breakfasts), budget ranges, amenity requirements, etc. Paper travel guides have always provided this sort of segmentation information. However, online has the unique advantage of providing search and personalization facilities, which so far remains unaddressed. It is also Yahoo’s greatest opportunity for strong differentiation in a market landscape that is fast standardizing.
Yahoo! Travel has convenient search functions and allows users to search from a multiple range of hotels, flights, car rentals, vacations, cruises and deals. The site also allows consumers to search for hotel, flights and cars simultaneously. In 2006 Yahoo! acquired FareChase, a travel search engine that allows users to search and compare fares of flights and hotels online and connects the user directly to the travel provider’s site.
Again, this is nothing wow’ing, and my above recommendations on more category-specific vertical search functionality would help immensely.
In general, segmentation would also allow content to be licensed from category specific travel guides. For example, for travelers in search of uniqueness, the French Guide du Routard is an excellent source. It tells you, not only which hotel to stay in, but also which rooms in the hotel are the best. Similarly, the Rough Guides have catered to budget travelers for generations, and knows the cheapest dives to eat good food at, while traveling to far away destinations.
Yahoo earns more than 88% of its revenues from advertisements. The ad rates for the travel site are in the range of $0.32 – $0.57 CPC. The major advertisers on Yahoo! Travel are Avis, InterContinental Hotel Group, Wynn, Sheraton, and Hertz. It doesn’t look like Yahoo! Travel has got its act together quite yet on the advertising side, but presumably it will, and advertising rates will climb up.
Web 3.0 Rating :
Context: A; Content: A-; Community: B; Commerce: A-; Personalization: C; Vertical Search: C;
Overall : B