This guest post is an editorial in Hotelmarketing.com re-published here:
Apple filed a patent this month for a future iPhone app called iTravel that like the Google/ITA rumors has the potential to become a game changer for the travel industry, or how Steve Jobs would put it “revolutionize travel.”
By Markus Busch
The folks at Patently Apple fan website did a great job going through an Apple patent filed this month, uncovering drawings for an Apple iPhone app called iTravel, which would basically app-ify the entire travel process.
Unlike with most OTAs, travel for Apple is not just searching and booking. In the true fashion of an innovator with a track record of getting things right (mostly), Apple is looking at travel as a whole, planning to create value by turning a once frustrating shopping experience into an easy, intuitive, and enjoyable one.
Based on a combination of iPhone hardware and apps, Apple iTravel wants to manage your entire travel process, from planning, searching, reviewing and booking flights, hotels, car rentals, trains and bus journeys, including identifying yourself at airports for baggage handling and boarding passes – technically in a similar fashion as the iPhone-based payment system adopted by Starbucks.
While electronic ticketing and check-in via mobile devices are already available in many countries, putting the whole travel experience in one slick application is the innovation here and a huge business opportunity, especially coming from a travel outsider like Apple, who already successfully disrupted industries like music and phones.
Who will deliver the travel content?
That’s the big question, that nobody can answer today, as iTravel is currently only at patent stage.
But unlike Google, who regularly states that it does not want to get into the transaction side of the travel business (read: not directly compete with its AdWords travel customers), it is likely that Apple will want to own the transaction, as the travel shop will become a central part of the whole iTravel experience, very much like Apple’s iTunes and iBooks (on iPad) store.
And if iTunes and iBooks serve as a hint in which direction supply partnerships may go, Apple will work with a few selected certified aggregators to provide content for iTravel. Like the GDS, Pegasus, hotel chains and hotel bed banks, and travel fulfillment service providers like TRX . But most likely not individual hotels, the same way as musicians and writers have no direct access to iTunes or iBooks.
Still, for hotel marketers Apple iTravel could simply mean another, highly potential distribution channel, creating more competition and thereby options in a hotel distribution environment currently marked by concentration and steady increases in cost of sale.
And how about OTAs as content provider? Not very likely, as Apple’s iTravel will be in direct competition with companies like Expedia and Co. In fact, OTAs have all reason to be worried, as the patent Apple is proposing is a very timely one, and would certainly be welcomed by many travelers around the globe.
But for now, the only thing we know is that Apple plans to get into travel – the question is just when and how.
Oh, and one more thing … starting this Summer, Apple will be busy revolutionizing online advertising with iAds. What a great fit for travel, one of the biggest online advertisers.
Read also “iTravel: Apple’s Future Travel Centric App for the iPhone” at Patently Apple
Markus Busch is the Editor/Publisher of Hotelmarketing.com and can be reached at markus.busch ‘at’ hotelmarketing.com.