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Vayant gets surgical with search

February 18, 2013

(Published in TTG05.12.12)

After six years building up its B2B air fare technology, Vayant’s Brannon Winn tells Matthew Parsons why the company now feels ready to launch its new tools to the trade

It’s no longer a case of every second counts in today’s fast-paced industry – every milli-second now counts, proclaims Brannon Winn (pictured). Vayant’s chief commercial officer’s mission is to help travel sellers put the fun, and inspiration, back into business. The company’s new tools, he claims, will help agents get creative and save time when discussing holiday plans with clients.

At its most basic level, Vayant’s core “FastSearch” tool provides agents with live global flight data, in an easy-to-absorb map format, merging data from sources such as flight schedule provider OAG, air fare regulator ATPCO, and its own tax-emulating engine to offer real-time prices.

It’s a unique product, claims Winn. “We’ve built our own core engine. It took six years to bring the product to market,” he says, adding there are just four other companies it considers rivals: Amadeus, Travelport, Sabre and Google ITA (also known as Flight Search).

And if Google Flight Search is launched in the UK, Winn argues that any agent who uses it would effectively be subsidising their competitors that advertise on the site by using the service.

As a result, he considers Vayant to be “the only independent worldwide air fare shopping engine”, that incorporates all of the no-frills airlines as well as legacy carriers. “It’s pure shopping, not reservation, and very niche – but we’re good at what we do.”

Travel agent focus

So how can agents benefit from having access to “sub-second” search results? “Let’s take what the consumer wants, and work backwards. The next generation of customers wants results instantly; they’re not going to wait 3-5 seconds,” Winn says.

“And consumers are no longer interested in telling agents where they want to go. They want to be inspired. We’re offering more. For example, using our technology, you could tell the customer who’s just requested to fly to Spain that for that same £200, they could actually fly to Dubai.

“A good travel agent would do this anyway – but we are saving the agent key strokes and time. Prices, and availability, are updated every milli-second.”

Two new tools – “Live Fare Emails” and the soon-to-launch “Fare Alert” look set to up the game.

Live Fare Emails can be overbranded by agents, and sent to their customer database. Traditionally, Winn says, a customer could open that special offer email a day later, call and find the price has changed. With Live Fare Emails, any prices in the email will be instantly updated the second the customer opens the message – which Winn says is unique, and also good customer service.

A future plan is to offer agents over-branded banner ads that constantly update prices each time the website is refreshed.

Fare Alert, meanwhile, is a tool that will allow agents to be notified of any drop, or increase, of any fare. “Parameters are set by the agent. You tell us what you define as an alert, for example a drop in price of £50 for Heathrow-New York. If I’m an agent, I can then tell a customer their flight has just gone down £50,” Winn says.

Keeping costs down

Winn, who has previously held senior roles at Sabre and Travelport, claims Vayant can offer agents lower costs compared with using GDSs, whose costly servers must host data such as PNR records, as well as constantly field large amounts of data requests.

Vayant makes its revenue from charging per search, and offers monthly packages, allowing agents the chance to filter ranges – such as to offer results solely for Heathrow-New York flights, for example.

“We’re being surgically niche. It’s where we see search going,” Winn says. As an example, he cites one US operator that uses the Vayant API to power a map on its website, showing live flights between LA and San Francisco. The operator pays Vayant £1,000 a month.

Winn also suggests an operator that specialises in south-east Asia, for example, could use Fastsearch to find the best flights and fares on offer.
“Prices depend on the range, and you define origins and destinations. The cost depends on the size of data we have to monitor, but there’s a 30-day free demo agents can trial by going to our website,” he adds.

The masterplan

Vayant’s customers already include Austrian airlines, Air Baltic, Hotelplan and OpenJaw. It is now seeking to make its mark with agents, and in Germany already works with tourism software specialist PeakWork. Winn believes it will gain interest from the likes of Thomas Cook and Tui in Germany, and then through these travel giants “extend that scenario into the UK”.

“For Vayant, it would be unrealistic of us to knife-edge into the UK market… we need momentum to prove what we do is great.”

Apart from Fare Alert, rail is also on the agenda, which “would be great to be able to add in”.

Winn is also keen on experimenting, and suggests one potential money-making idea, that would use Vayant’s API, could be an app that plugs into Facebook. “I’ve got a group of friends, but how much would it cost me to fly to see them. We have built a flexible API; someone could build this app.”

Vayant was originally built to solve the complexity of European travel – for example, to be able to quickly find flights to fly BA, for example, one way, and a no-frills carrier for the return. It then morphed from a B2C into a B2B tool, owing to a crowded marketplace. With the cost and availability of flights often so pivotal to the purchasing decision, could Vayant next become the tool to help agents solve the question they are so commonly asked: “Where shall I go on holiday?”

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