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

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instead of visiting multiple sites or paging through endless listings, Raybman says.

Of course, the startup’s success will depend on how well its algorithms deliver choices that people want. The plan is to personalize each consumer’s search experience based on his or her preferences, Raybman says. Another big challenge is getting enough people to use the site. For this, the company plans to get its name out there through the media, word of mouth, paid search, and partnerships with travel sites and other organizations that might want a piece of a booking system. And it will be looking to form direct partnerships with hotels and airlines to sell itineraries.

I pressed Raybman a little on how WaySavvy will separate itself from such a crowded field. “We are the simplest and fastest way to get a great deal and a great trip. We do the heavy lifting for you,” he says. “Even if Hipmunk and Wanderfly do extremely well, there will be enough of a pie for everyone. There is big potential here if we can break the behavior patterns of [people] looking at 1,000 choices before [booking a trip].”

As for the big entrenched players, Raybman sees a “big decrease in the importance of meta-search because price parity is going to get to 100 percent,” he says. That means firms like Kayak might look more outside of hotels and airlines, or move into direct bookings, or use a bidding model like Hotwire or Priceline. Meanwhile, he predicts Microsoft will make another acquisition or two, and Google will support search queries like “what is a good getaway from Boston this summer?” but probably won’t get into booking trips.

That reminded me that Google is still in the process of acquiring Cambridge, MA-based ITA Software—whose technology powers the flight search and pricing engines for airlines and travel sites—against the wishes of Microsoft, Kayak, Expedia, and others. Raybman had high praise for ITA, saying it is “the best-positioned company to not go away, and to be the technology provider that works well in the new ecosystem with suppliers and airlines.”

Lastly, I had to point out that online technology has its limits: it won’t ease some of the biggest air travel frustrations, like screaming babies, long security lines, and rising fuel prices.

“Unfortunately, we’re not doing anything about that just yet,” he says.

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