Google Goes Travel – Purchases ITA Software for $700m

Google has just taken a giant leap into Travel through its recent $700m USD acquisition of the mathematician-heavy Ivy-leaugers at ITA Software.
TechCrunch has a great write-up of the acquisition
Google now has a foothold into flight pricing – and a powerful one at that.  ITA’s QPX flight shopping and pricing engine has won rave reviews for it’s speed and scalability.  It’s already powering a number of supplier, OTA, and meta-search sites – including Continental, Air Canada, Orbitz, Kayak, and interestingly enough Google’s competitor Bing.
It will also be interesting to see if or how Google integrates ITA”s Matrix 2 flight search result displays.  You can see an example of Matrix 2 in action here.
Even more intriguing than new Search Results displays is to ponder how Google will plan to utilize ITA’s reservation management solution, named RES, to get in the same booking management business long dominated by SABRE and TravelPort in the US.  Could Google become another CRS supplier?
Imagine the amount of customer targeting capabilities Google could have if it’s platform knew your travel patterns before they were even in effect.  Google’s access to PNR data is a marketer’s dream.  You could cross-sell and upsell from the time of booking through the time of return across all of Google’s ad network touchpoints.  Now, Google just needs to have someone be the first to buy into ITA’s reservation platform….any takers?

When Travel Social Media Strikes Back

Social Media has taken the travel industry by storm – blasting into Marketing and Technology groups just like the web did in the late 90’s.  Just like any storm, social media interactions are often a fast and furious ride through changing Customer sentiment.
That desire to be the first brand with a a million Facebook followers or the the first to offer coupons via Foursqaure is truly exciting.   Though, the thrill can turn into a nightmare when the brand is threatened, attacked or taken hostage by those followers your team worked so hard to gain.
Jake Hird from eConsultancy has written “Social Media Failures: examples from the Travel Industry” about how a lack of control over social media spin can damage a brand.  He cites the examples of flight attendants speaking out of turn at Virgin Arilines, the guitar-crushing United Airlines anthem viewed by over 8 million YouTubers, and the tweet heard round the world when Southwest Airlines and Kevin Smith tussled in February.  A great article indeed, with links back to the original incidents.
Hurd’s summation of social media tragedies in travel proves that preparedness is key.  Having a well defined Social Media policy that is visible to your team can help prepare for the unforeseen and allow your team to quickly make a course correction.  Check Forrester’s own Melissa Parrish’s Community Management Checklist for help navigating the currents and good luck out there.