Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A New Tourism Webportal for Holidays in Austria

A new Austrian tourism information portal with the somewhat unusual name www.urlauburlaub.at/ launched less than a week ago. I assume the reason for the iterative usage of the domain name urlaub (i.e. holiday) in the URL is that www.urlaub.at/ is already owned by a German based online travel company.

The objective of UrlaubUrlaub.at is to provide all the information needed for a holiday in Austria. The portal was initiated by the Austrian company Herold Business Data, in cooperation with Feratel, one of the leading developers and providers of information systems for the tourism industry. Herold is the publisher of the Austrian telephone directory and the yellow pages and the first impression of www.urlauburlaub.at is also that of an inventory listing of tourism businesses and establishments (see screenshot below, click on picture to enlarge).


According to a press release by Herold (source: www.tourismuspresse.at/, 5 Oct 09), www.urlauburlaub.at lists more than 128,000 Austrian tourism suppliers such as accommodation establishments, restaurants, bars and spas. Moreover, information about summer and winter outdoor activities, including descriptions of cycling and hiking tours, is also available to some extent.

The website providers claim that the "learning" website navigation adjusts to the individual visitor’s interests based on a substantial analysis of the search and navigation behavior, which will be used to “calculate” (sic!) recommendations for the website users. This type of recommendation system reminds me very much at the Amazon principle of “users who have bought book abc have also bought book xyz” (see screenshot of the recommendations below).

However, how the “personalisation” really works has remained a mystery to me so far, but maybe more visits to the website are required in order to find that out. The navigation of the website is mainly structured according to geographic areas (regions, destinations, cities and towns), and the points of interest further can be displayed interactively and geo-referenced on Google maps. The website also integrates the obligatory Web 2.0 applications and services (e.g. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Qype) which is rather state-of-the art than a new approach. The business model of charging a fee for a higher ranking of otherwise free entries is also not as innovative and new as stated in the press release but rather favors less budget-restrained hotels and suppliers. And whether this principle is end-consumer oriented remains yet another question.

I have navigated through the website and have tried to accomplish the following 2 tasks:

  1. To book a single room for 2 nights in a a 3star hotel in Vienna near the Palace of Schönbrunn.
  2. To search for a 1 week skiing holiday (accommodation + ski pass) in Carinthia in December for 2 adults + 1 kid.

My résumé of www.urlauburlaub.at is that finding a hotel or any other supplier is easy by means of the geographic navigation (i.e. text based and map, filters). Checking availability and online booking is not (yet) included, you can only send an enquiry to the hotel or to the tourist board. Finding and putting together more complex tourism packages is not realised in a user-friendly way due to the lack of set arrangements or a shopping basket collecting components of the travel experience. The website is (consciously) very functional and does not convey emotions about the destinations. The usability could be improved by adjustable font sizes and a better scanability of the text paragraphs.
The biggest strength of the portal is certainly that two very experienced and successful companies have teamed up: Herold, which possesses up-to-date data of tourism suppliers and businesses, and Feratel, which provides back and front office technology and DMS for a great number of destinations and further operates hundreds of panorama cameras.

What do you think about the economic viability and sustainability of yet another tourism portal? Does www.urlauburlaub.at/ differ from existing portals and does it meet the claim to be “the most complete tourism platform for holiday makers to Austria”? Share your opinions with us!

5 comments:

  1. i just had a quick thought abt the name of the portal...since the world urlaub is only used in austria and germany and also the term urlauber is not known in switzerland. here the standard term is "Ferien" and an equivalent to urlauber is still to be found. :) but since austria's most important market is germany the domain name might be justified

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  2. Dear Ms Wang,

    You're absolutely right that Swiss use the word 'Ferien' instead of 'Urlaub' for holidays. urlauburlaub.at aims to be a tourism portal about Austria for Austrians. It will be interesting to observe how they will position themselves in the future.

    Kind regards and enjoy your ARTS in Switzerland!

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  3. This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.

    Alan

    http://holidaydestinationinindia.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for your compliment. I am glad that you like the blog and will return to read the new posts which will be published again soon.

    Christian

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.

    Alan

    http://holidaydestinationinindia.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete