Thursday, April 30, 2009

Travelocity goes Hotwire! New Opaque Product Launched

We are not quite sure how we missed this one, but Travelocity has launched a new opaque product (a la Hotwire or Priceline's name your own price model) within their current hotel product.

There does not seem to have been any fanfare associated with this launch - nary even a press release but then again, Travelocity may have been a little occupied with the ongoing booking fee battles to focus on this product launch.

The product is the same in name and offering as those offered on Travelocity's sister site in Europe,

Consumers click on the link above (which could use some work, by the way - what is that hanging edge of the "top secret" logo on the far right?) and are directed to the page shown below.

Not unlike Hotwire, star ratings, amenities and a fixed (rather than name-your-own as at Priceline) price is shown. Traveler reviews are masked as well as any other descriptive data that would enable a potential customer to identify the hotel.

Unlike Hotwire and Priceline, however, the location of your mystery hotel (often the most important part of buying a hotel!) is somewhat hard to identify, to the point of silliness. The hotels above were listed as being in "Chicago" rather than a specific area or neighborhood of Chicago. This makes it pretty tough for consumers to make an intelligent choice - who wants to end up at O'Hare if you have a meeting downtown? Compare Travelocity's map with Hotwire's:

And then there is the supply issue. Things are early for Travelocity - we had a choice of 3 hotels vs. Hotwire's 34. Because of Priceline's opacity, it is impossible to know how many hotels Priceline has but, based on our experience, it is usually at least as many as Hotwire.

That said, assuming the suppliers can live with it, more choice is always good for consumers and we expect, particularly in these times, that Travelocity will be able to rapidly add more inventory - again, assuming hoteliers buy into the product.


  1. Great find, Tom. It seems that Travelocity Global CEO Hugh Jones is getting into areas -- opaque hotel sales and metasearch -- that ex-CEO Michelle Peluso abstained from.

    Perhaps Travelocity didn't issue a press release on this one because the product isn't ready yet. The lack of inventory that you mentioned may be a case in point.

    I remember that Orbitz experimented with opaque hotel sales, I think in the form of a Priceline partnership, and dropped it.

    Yes, if Travelocity goes full-throttle with this, they'd better address that location issue that you rightly mention. It is one thing to take your chances and to book a room without knowing the brand identity. But, it is quite another vexing matter if you don't have a pretty good idea of the location. That won't work.

  2. Good find, Tom! Regarding the map issue, you're right that the TVLY maps leave something to be desired, but they do provide a more specific textual description of the neighborhood (e.g., in San Francisco they have Nob Hill separate from Moscone Center and Pacific Heights.

    I wonder if opaque car rentals are up next? And now that TVLY is doing this, the bigger question is how long before Orbitz joins the fray? With their linking relationship with Hotwire, that's a much thornier issue.

  3. Interesting that they didn't announce this development of the product! In response to the success in Europe of this product have just launched their opaque 'Top Secret Flights', the concept is pretty similar you get to know where the flight is to but don't know the departure times etc or the carrier. Early days for this new product but you can bet the rival OTA's will be keeping a close eye on it.