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More Choices or No Choices as Travel Sites Merge

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Blurring of Travel Sites May Hurt Consumers

Christopher Elliott, as usual, provides special insights into the “blending” of online travel agents and the impact on travelers. In the Seattle Times,  he suggests that Travelocity’s strategic marketing agreement” with long time competitor Expedia could give consumers more travel choice. Or, he suggests, it could create some sort of travel agency monopoly, inevitably raising prices.

While the travel industry is not long on similar examples, Elliott refers to the 2012, 1.8 billion dollar purchase of Kayak by Priceline.

Citing Elliott’s article, Hotelmarketing.com also pointed out that after the Priceline-Kayak deal, Kayak’s “purportedly” unbiased display of prices looked less and less unbiased. It seems Kayak’s listings omitted fees and taxes, making the prices look less expensive than they actually were.

How does this matter to the traveling public? Since Expedia and Travelocity are numbers 1 and 3 in terms of online travel agency clout, and given that Google continues to eye ways to dominate the travel industry , Elliott’s article argues that soon we may all be buying our travel from the same sources.

Consolidation or monopoly, the point seems to be that those of us seeking reliable, low prices for airfare and hotels, need to be looking elsewhere. We touted Hipmunk in the past, and the Seattle Times article also references it. It points to “niche” companies like Room77.com and Stayful.com as sites to get familiar with as alternatives.

Airline mergers clearly taught us that mergers are not necessarily (or ever) healthy for consumers, an invitation, if ever one was needed, for the government to step in and push competition as a good business practice.

But that a may be an anathema to free enterprise types.

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