The rising popularity of online travel planning has made every element of the organizing experience easier from research and coordination to deal-seeking and booking. Over time the big online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz and Expedia have even gotten better at allowing users to organize more complex itineraries including multiple destinations, hotels and rental cars in a single itinerary. Until recently, however, the process of booking vacations for multiple travellers leaving from multiple destinations was still a highly manual process. With the launch of the their new "Meet me in …" packages, Site59 is tackling this last hurdle of complexity. This new offering, currently in their site in Beta version offers last minute travellers the ability to synch their travel schedules to leave from two different departure cities, meet in the same place and travel together. As they outline on their site, there are many different groups of people who could use Meet me in … best friends travelling together, romantic couples in long distance relationships planning a rendevouz, or family reunions bringing together far flung relatives. I love this idea.
In an industry as crowded and commoditized as online travel, you have to respect Site59’s strategy of carving their niche in last minute travel to such as degree that the majority of airline and OTA (online travel agency) sites are using their engine to power their own last minute features on their sites. And if the true profit from online travel bookings really is in the package deals – Site 59 is extremely well positioned in this industry of shrinking margins. As they continue to make last minute travel easier and more convenient for travellers, this phenomenon of last minute travel will start to expand its audience beyond young, time-rich, thrill seekers … and move into a broader base of travellers. Perhaps this will even bring more spontaneity into the act of travelling … something that has been slowly disappearing with the evolution of the bus tour phenomenon that lets people see a country or region in air-conditioned prepackaged safety. This is online innovation at its best – rethinking old models, simplifying complex tasks, and allowing travellers to focus on planning and dreaming of their travel experience instead of wasting time coordinating details. Sounds like what we used to use travel agents for.