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Issue 2001-5 - Wesnesday, March 28, 2001

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  Filfog: the results still need to be qualified

Filfog: the results still need to be qualified.

Online travel industry captures $1.2 billion in January 2001, which represents a third of all eCommerce transactions.


At the beginning of October 2000, Nouvelles Frontières caused a sensation in the French eTourism sector as it launched, a travel-oriented community website.

This approach proved original for two reasons.

First of all, Nouvelles Frontières took a chance creating a whole new brand on a market that already proved rather crowded, when most of its French competitors, such as Travelprice for instance, had chosen to integrate this "content" dimension straight into their reservation websites.

Nouvelles Frontières took another chance when it opened Filfog to other TOs as it wished to offer the biggest possible range of products to its travel-oriented users.


The idea seems rather interesting to me, as it fits the Internet "logic" which aims at satisfying customers who have become extremely demanding lately, even if it means sending them to another website, and even a competitive website if needs be.

Indeed, it proves more interesting to be remembered as a site that pays attention to all his customers' needs than a site on which these same customers have wasted their time, as they could not find an offer that suited their needs or even worse, where the site tried to deceive them by selling them another product.

The biggest difficulty faced by Nouvelles Frontières was due to his statute of both judge and party in the whole business, as Nouvelles Frontières' main role is TO.

As a result, Filfog decided to resort to his TO partners specialised in some of the market niches, such as Voyageurs du monde, specialised in made-to-measure trips, or else sites offering additional services such as Europcar.

Six months after was launched, I thought it could prove interesting to analyse the first results of this original experience.

In order to do so, I based myself on the exclusive figures provided by BVA TFC Research, the subsidiary that was created jointly between the BVA institute and eMarket Strategies, and that constitutes the first ever behavioural panel on the French market with over 17.000 active users who access the Internet both from work and from home. Unless otherwise mentioned, the figures concern the period that ranges from the 1st to the 20th of March 2001.

We first noticed that Filfog managed to get itself a market place in the French eTourism sector with an activity rate of 3.07% (this rate takes into account the number of visits, the number of pages viewed as well as the time spent on the site).

This rate places Filfog among the top ten websites in the eTourism sector. As an example, for these first 20 days of March, the site displayed an activity rate of 1.2%, and got an activity rate of 0.94%.

And yet, the activity rate that was noticed for Filfog should be compared to the much higher results it got in the previous months (11.21% for February and 13.85% for January). There is no doubt that such drop can mostly be explained by the fact that the tourism market always faces a decline in March. Indeed, nearly all eTourism websites saw their activity rate drop in March 2001.

What Filfog needs to do now is to prove whether users who visited its site during the first quarter of 2001 will remain loyal… or if they are going to forget it.

In order to measure Filfog's real influence in the eTourism sector, I thought it might prove interesting to have a look at the eTourism websites Filfog's visitors went to AFTER they left the site.

As could be expected, geocompagnie comes first with a downstream rate of 4.51% (this rate measures the importance of the flow generated by Filfog on the sites situated after the users' surf sessions). Indeed, geocompagnie is Filfog's partner in the field of travel accessories and it is integrated to the site itself through a link in the frames.

The services offered by geocompagnie seem to arouse the interest of the users who visit Filfog as they viewed an average of 15.14 pages on this site.

Europcar comes second (still in the eTourism sector), with a downstream rate of 2.53%.

On the contrary, users who visited Europcar after they left Filfog did not view more than 5.75 pages on this site.

This means that most of these users do not find what they are looking for on Europcar, or else are not motivated enough to take their search further.

Nouvelles Frontières comes fourth with a downstream rate of 1.26 and…an average of 24 pages viewed on the NF site by users who visited filfog before.

There is no doubt that Nouvelles Frontières managed to generate qualified traffic through Filfog, which proves a real eMarketing success.

At the same time, we notice that none of the biggest eTourism websites gets listed here (lastminute/Degriftour, Travelprice, Promovacances, Anyway,, etc…). As a result, and even though we should keep things to perspective, we can say that Filfog appears more as a traffic consolidator for Nouvelles Frontières and its closest partners than a way to take traffic away from its greatest competitors.

When we have a look at the sites visited by users BEFORE they go to Filfog, we get a very disparate list. One of the first appears to be geocompagnie with an upstream rate of 6.64% (this rate measures the importance of the flow generated by a site that arrives before Filfog in the surf sessions). This rate, just as the previous one, can be explained by the two sites' computing interconnection.

Let's mention some other websites that generate traffic on with an upstream rate of 3.31%, then comes Degriftour (upstream rate of 2.41%). Users who come from Degriftour visit an average of 8.14 pages on Filfog, and the site bourse-des-voyages comes as a surprise with an upstream rate of 1.14%.

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   Online travel industry captures $1.2 billion in January 2001, which represents a third of all eCommerce transactions  

According to the last survey conducted by Harris Interactive and Nielsen Netratings, online travel industry captured $1.2 billion in sales in January 2001 in the United States, nearly a third of all eCommerce transactions ($3.8 billion).

Online shopping trips to eTourism websites jumped to 22 million visits for the same period.

Online market shares in January 2001 were distributed as follows:

  • got 18 percent of all online travel purchasers for 8.720.000 unique audience.

  • got 14% of all online travel purchasers for 4.109.000 unique audience.

  • Expedia got 11% for 4.801.000 unique audience.

  • Priceline got 9% for 3.409.000 unique audience.

  • Delta got 8% for 3.019.000 unique audience.

We can notice that Southwest Airlines has become very important in the online travel industry. This survey confirms the good results we've observed for over a year now.

This second position, very close to Travelocity, must be the reason why the airline company decided to withdraw purely and simply its airline offer from Travelocity's website.

Officially, this decision was forced upon Southwest by the fact that Travelocity would have proven unable to manage Southwest's stocks successfully, and this would have led to disputes with customers over tickets sold at the same time by both the airline company and Travelocity.

And yet, I doubt that Sabre's knowledge might have been caught at fault so badly. This is why I think this has more to do with a strategic decision by Southwest, as an attempt to get part of its distribution channel back through a technical fault.

This decision by Southwest is just one more dark point for Travelocity as it already suffered from the decision by KLM and Northwest to eliminate commissions for American and Canadian online travel agencies.

Please note to that matter that no other airline company decided to follow Northwest and KLM's example in their decision to cut down commissions.

Another element appears worth mentioning in this survey by Harris Interactive, in addition to the $1.2 billion mentioned above. It seems that online travel websites stimulated another $681 million in offline revenue in January 2001. These $681 million correspond to sales initiated online but finalised over the telephone or by fax.

Source : Harris Interactive

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