Yahoo Improves Travel Content With Maps, Search

Yahoo is providing full travel planning functionality by uniting its air and hotel search, price comparison, and maps online in a new service called FareChase. Made available this week, it allows users to plan and purchase trips, as well as to share their travel experiences with an online community through its Trip Planner tool.

The online giant is looking to boost its ability to compete with travel specialty sites such asExpedia andPriceline, and is also looking to leverage existing resources that are more valuable when aggregated — both for users and for advertisers.

“Behind it, the whole digital marketplace is driven by advertising,” IDC analyst Sue Feldman told TechNewsWorld. “They’re creating all this valuable real estate where you can put an ad.”

Cut to the FareChase

Yahoo joined products from across its online network, allowing users to search for airfare or hotel prices, and use FareChase to see area destinations on Yahoo’s satellite and street level maps. Users will also be able to read others’ trip plans and reviews of different airlines, hotels and destinations.

“This is the first time a search engine for travel pricing and a search engine for travel experiences have come together in a single product,” said Director of Yahoo Travel Jasper Malcolmson.

Sum Value

The social networking aspect of Yahoo’s new travel service and strategy is key, and parallels other “Web 2.0” social networking strategies, according to Feldman.

“The idea is you create community building tools, and that helps you be successful,” she said. “All these related, but previously separate services — travel, maps, bookings, hotel reviews — if you pull it together, it becomes much more powerful than it is separately.”

Search rivals Google and MSN may be expected to create similar aggregation plans to compete with existing travel planning sites and services such as Pinnacle and Kayak.com, Feldman added.

Reliable Sources

Members of online communities and users of online services must keep in mind the sources of information, she advised, which might be companies attempting to generate buzz and promote themselves.

“I would caution people to find out where the information is coming from, because that’s what determines whether or not you find what you’re looking for, and whether or not you can rely on it,” she said.

Still, Feldman indicated the online services are good for users, who typically get them for free, and for the companies that provide them because of the advertising opportunities.

Participation Required

The presentation of the different search, travel planning, comparison and review information may give users a “more refined way” to get the information they are seeking, Grey Consulting Founder and Principal Analyst Maurene Caplan Grey told TechNewsWorld.

The community aspects of Yahoo’s strategy have become a requirement to compete in the online market, she observed.

“Everything’s aggregated — that’s part of it — but we’re doing it in a participatory community setting,” Grey pointed out. “Everybody has to do that.”

She added that Yahoo’s new FareChase may have come in response to rival Google’s constant presence in the media with its own services tools.

“Everyone really has to one-up each other,” she said.

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