WaySavvy, With Expedia Partnership, Joins New Wave of Online Travel Sites

A collaboration between New England and Northwest techies is aiming to radically improve the way people book flights and hotels on the Web. If all goes well, it will become part of a broader movement of tech companies looking to reshape the online travel landscape.

I’m not talking about the alliance between Microsoft’s Bing Travel and Connecticut-based Kayak, announced on Friday (though that’s important too). I’m talking about a small startup based in Boston and Seattle called WaySavvy.

Late last week, the six-person company signed a key partnership with Bellevue, WA-based Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) that gives it access to a “global distribution system” that books and sells airline tickets and hotel stays. That also means the startup is connected to a large swath of itinerary and pricing data. In short, WaySavvy is now in business—more specifically, in beta trials with its early customers.

Its main goal? “We make it incredibly easy to book a trip,” says WaySavvy founder and CEO Michael Raybman. He has been working full-time on the bootstrapped startup for just over a year, collaborating with his chief technology officer in the Seattle area (whose day job is at Microsoft though he’s been working 50 hours a week on WaySavvy).

What’s interesting here is not so much WaySavvy’s specific technology or product just yet (more on that in a minute). It’s that consumers’ frustration with booking trips online has given birth to a new generation of online travel startups, many of which are focused on making the booking process faster, more efficient, and more informative. Xconomy has profiled Hipmunk (and its new hotel search system), InsideTrip, and Raveable on the West Coast, but there’s also Wanderfly, Yapta, YourTour, Goplanet, TravelPost, and others, in addition to WaySavvy.

Over the years, travel companies have tended to come in waves—first led by firms like Expedia and Travelocity, then Orbitz and Hotwire, and then Kayak and Farecast (now Bing Travel). Whoever survives from the current crop of upstarts should be well-positioned to carry the torch.

Raybman’s interest in building a travel startup comes in part from serving as the “de facto travel agent” for his extended family, he says. He’s a recent Brandeis University graduate who previously worked on healthcare modeling software at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

He gave me a quick demo of WaySavvy last week. The site is simple: you tell it where you want to go and when, and it filters airfare and hotel results by cheapest, swankiest, and best bang for the buck. Its software takes into account the timing, price, and comfort of flights, length of layovers, distance between airport and hotel, and other factors, and then it suggests an ideal itinerary for you (which you can accept or change). The goal is for people to go “from search to booking in a couple of minutes” … Next Page »

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