Trip.com boosts flight search engine to boost European bookings
When Trip.com Group released its financial figures on Thursday, analysts understandably focused on details of consumer shopping habits and expectations for the lifting of border restrictions, the company’s partnerships with marketing organizations destination and management’s revenue and profit forecasts.
But for European airline executives, an equally interesting story has been how the online travel conglomerate has used its tech stack, particularly its flight search engine, to become a valid channel for ticket distribution. and ancillary products, such as extra legroom.
“Our flight search engine is entirely designed and implemented in-house,” said Yudong Tan, CEO of Flight Business Group, Trip.com Group, in an interview. “This has been core to our competitiveness in our flight businesses at Ctrip and Trip.com.”
Trip.com’s market share in the European market has increased nearly fivefold since the start of the year, Tan told attendees at a corporate event in Macau earlier this month.
In the second quarter, Trip.com saw double-digit growth in new overseas registered users in Europe compared to the first quarter, Tan said. These European performances concerned Trip.com, the international brand of online agencies of the group, and not subsidiaries such as the price comparator Skyscanner.
Trip.com’s behind-the-scenes software appears to have played a significant role in this market share gain, given that the company’s overseas paid marketing spend has been relatively modest this year.
The enterprise technology behind growth
An internal search engine is essential for an online travel agency, as it selects flights to display from thousands. The math is mind-boggling to calculate, and many airlines, such as Delta and Unitedhire data analysis specialists such as Google ITA Software to manage numbers on their behalf for their own purposes. The flight search engine must also calculate which flights are the best based on factors such as connection and transit time.
The flight search engine helped find flights and ancillary products and price them in a way that better matched consumer demand than other brands.
Smart pricing matters when Trip.com competes in metasearch channels primarily on lower prices rather than buying brand positions in ad auctions on google or the one he owns in Europe, Skyscanner.
“For Ctrip and Trip.com, we may have different pricing strategies in different markets,” Tan said. “Pricing control is centralized within the revenue management team. Local offices can give advice and comments depending on the local market situation. »
Earlier this month, Trip.com signed a deal with a Montreal-based travel startup Hopper to add an additional pricing tool. Trip.com users will be able to freeze a flight price for up to 14 days using software through Hopper’s B2B service, hopper cloud.
“At this point, we only plan to use their ‘price freeze’ services on Trip.com in the North American and European markets,” said Tan, on behalf of the Trip.com brand.
Trip.com’s growing volume of sales will attract the attention of airline executives, who will take the newcomer Trip.com more seriously as a brand and may supply it with their best inventory more often – a contribution which, in its tower, will feed Trip.com. more competitiveness.
Today, Trip.com’s flight search engine can offer up to 15 ancillary products that airlines might want to sell, Tan said. The company plans to further improve the capabilities of the engine.
Several airlines are increasingly interested in distributing their airfares and ancillary items in specially presented packages to encourage upselling under a concept loosely known as New Distribution Capability (NDC). The Trip.com group owns Travel fusionone of the technology providers, similar to Accelya Where AirGateway and Verteilwhich help aggregate NDC content from airlines for further distribution to travel agencies.
“Trip.com has a lot of cooperation with Travelfusion to improve NDC’s delivery technology,” Tan said. “We are exploring opportunities to integrate NDC content into our own flight search engine to overcome the booking search rationing problem that many NDC providers suffer from. We look forward to working with all airlines in this area.
In other words, the method airlines use to distribute their new distribution capacity content through aggregators like Travelfusion can sometimes cause hiccups, slowing the speed of displaying accurate results to end buyers. Trip.com, like others, is looking for closer technical connections to mitigate issues.
Turn to Amadeus
Earlier this year, Trip.com Group selected Madrid from Amadeus Custom search solutions to help Trip.com’s platforms handle growing volumes of online demand in a scalable, cloud-based way that claims to be profitable.
“Amadeus’ search solution is complementary to our own search engine [for Trip.com]”, said Tan. “It helps improve the coverage and accuracy of our search results.”
Interestingly, Trip.com Group does not have a single flight engine shared by all brands, such as price comparison brands Skyscanner and Qunar.
“But brands share content and resources authorized for distribution through APIs [application programming interfaces, or methods of exchanging data]”, said Tan. “This structure gives a lot of flexibility to each company in the Trip.com group and allows them to quickly iterate their technology and products for their own targeted markets.
“Each company in the Trip.com group can choose competitive products over others via APIs,” Tan said. “As a result, each company can reach global markets and maximize distribution efficiency.”
In another recent wrinkle, Trip.com in 2020 acquired Travix, an online travel company headquartered in the Netherlands but with a growing engineering team in Shanghai. This decision underlined the Trip.com group’s interest in the European market.
In the three months ending Sept. 30, Trip.com’s airfare sales in Europe were up 170% from sales in the April-June quarter, the group reported Thursday. While this primarily reflects a recovery in demand for travel to Europe as vaccination rates have risen, it also underscores how the Trip.com Group’s behind-the-scenes technology can give China’s travel powerhouse an edge as it is internationally competitive.