Trip.com strengthens flight search engine to increase European bookings

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When Trip.com Group released its financial figures on Thursday, analysts naturally focused on details of consumer buying habits and forecasts for lifting border restrictions, the company’s partnerships with marketing organizations. destination and revenue and profit management forecasts.

But for the executives of European airlines, an equally interesting story has been how the online travel conglomerate has used its technological stack, especially its flight search engine, to become an interesting channel for the distribution of tickets. and ancillary products, such as extra leg room.

“Our flight search engine is completely designed and implemented in-house,” said Yudong Tan, CEO of Flight Business Group, Trip.com Group, in an interview. “This has been at the heart of our competitiveness in our flight business at Ctrip and Trip.com. “

Trip.com’s market share in the European market has grown nearly five times 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 the number of new registered overseas users in Europe compared to the first quarter, Tan said. These European performances concern Trip.com, the group’s international online agency brand, and not subsidiaries such as the Skyscanner price comparison brand.

Trip.com’s behind-the-scenes software appears to have played a significant role in this market share gain, given the company’s paid overseas marketing spend has been relatively modest this year.

The business technology behind the growth

An internal search engine is essential for an online travel agency, as it selects the flights to display from the thousands. The calculations are mind-boggling to calculate, and many airlines, such as Delta and United, hire data analytics specialists such as Google ITA software to run the 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 found flights and ancillaries and priced them in a way that better matched consumer demand than other brands.

Smart pricing is important when Trip.com competes in predominantly lower-priced metasearch channels rather than buying reputable positions in ad auctions on Google or the one she 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 provide advice and commentary 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 the price of a flight for up to 14 days using software through Hopper’s business-to-business service, Hopper cloud.

“At this point, we plan to only use their ‘price freeze’ services on Trip.com in the North American and European markets,” said Tan, speaking on behalf of the Trip brand. .com.

The growing volume of Trip.com sales will attract the attention of airline executives, who will take the newcomer Trip.com more seriously as a brand and may provide them with their best inventory more often – a contribution that they believe turn, will fuel Trip.com’s competitiveness further.

Today, Trip.com’s flight search engine can come up with up to 15 ancillary products that airlines might want to sell, Tan said. The company plans to further improve the engine’s capabilities.

Several airlines are increasingly interested in splitting their air fares and ancillary products into packages presented in a particular way to encourage upselling in a concept loosely known as New Carrying Capacity (NDC). Trip.com Group owns Fusion trip, one of the technology providers, similar to Accelia Where AirGateway and Green, which help aggregate airline NDC content 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 the possibilities of integrating NDC content into our own flight search engine to overcome the reservation ration problem that many NDC providers suffer from. We are looking 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 issues, slowing the speed of displaying accurate results to end buyers. Trip.com, like others, is looking for closer technical connections to iron out the problems.

Turn to Amadeus

Earlier this year, Trip.com Group selected that of Amadeus Customized search solutions to help Trip.com platforms manage 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]”Tan said.” This helps improve the coverage and accuracy of our search results. “

Interestingly, Trip.com Group doesn’t have a single flight engine shared by all brands, such as price comparison brands Skyscanner and Qunar.

“But brands share authorized content and resources for distribution through APIs [application programming interfaces, or methods of exchanging data]”Tan said.” 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 target markets. “

“Each company in the Trip.com group can choose competing products over others through APIs,” Tan said. “As a result, every company can reach global markets and maximize distribution efficiency. “

In another recent wrinkle, Trip.com acquired in 2020 Travix, an online travel company based in the Netherlands but with a growing team of engineers in Shanghai. This decision underscored Trip.com Group’s interest in the European market.

In the three months ending September 30, Trip.com’s airline ticket sales in Europe were up 170% from sales in the April-June quarter, the group reported Thursday. While this primarily reflects a pickup in demand for travel to Europe as vaccination rates have increased, it also highlights how the Trip.com Group’s behind-the-scenes technology can give the Chinese travel powerhouse an edge in its international competition.


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