The founder of Hotwire is back with a new venture: an application that will create a sort of "super PNR" for consumers, dramatically simplifying the management of a trip.
"The simple description is that we replace the old-fashioned manila folder," Gregg Brockway, chief executive officer of TripIt, said. "Consumers are increasingly booking with suppliers, and they end up with 20 pages of printouts," he said. "We've made it easy to bring it all together in one place. We are going to drag the itinerary into the 21st century."
The centerpiece of TripIt is a proprietary technology called the "Itinerator," an open-technology platform that works with all major travel Web sites and all major e-mail systems. A user simply forwards all the confirmation e-mails from airlines and hotels to TripIt, and the Intinerator extracts only the information that is important and compiles the information into a master itinerary.
For example, the typical flight confirmation e-mail includes information on payment, fare rules, notice of incorporated terms and other information that is necessary to have but not to carry around. TripIt extracts the flight information, frequent flyer number, confirmation number and links to online check-in and flight status information, reducing a two-page e-mail to a quarter of a page. It performs a similar condensation of hotel and car rental e-mails.
But it doesn't stop there. "Once we understand where you're going, we can do some relatively simple things to help you organize your trip," Brockway said. "We automatically add in the weather at your destination, maps and destination content, and we can start to make connections between the bits of information you've given us, such as automatically creating directions from the airport to the hotel."
TripIt also adds a link that takes the user directly to SeatGuru's information on the aircraft that will be flown. And even if a confirmation e-mail does not include the supplier's URL and telephone number, TripIt will provide it.
The Itinerator processes e-mails from all major third-party distributors and travel agencies, all major U.S. airlines and several foreign carriers and all major hotel and car rental companies. If a supplier is not supported by TripIt, the user can add the information manually, using a simple form.
Users also can add other information, such as appointments and meetings, using a "notes" field.
Gregg stressed that TripIt doesn't want to be in the business of booking travel. "People already have places where they like to book their stuff," he said. Nor is it planning to charge users. Instead, it plans to bring in revenue through advertising and lead generation. "We'll do it in a tasteful manner," Brockway said. For example, a user might be shown ads for businesses located in her destination, such as activities, restaurants or ground transportation companies. The company plans to add the ability to book activities and restaurants from within the itinerary as well.
TripIt supports open standards such as iCalendar, enabling users to import trip data into their online calendars, and microformats, so itineraries can be accessed on mobile devices. It offers the option to share and collaborate on trip itineraries, making it useful for small groups and for friends or business associates from different cities to coordinate a meet-up.
Brockway believes early adopters will fall into three categories. "There are leisure travelers who love scripting out the perfect trip, and this is a nice organizational tool for them," he said. "Then there are smaller groups, like families or girlfriend getaways. "But we're seeing the most usage by road warriors, particularly the unmanaged business traveler," he said. "It's a useful resource for them, because it's so hard to keep spouses informed" about where the traveler is at any given moment.
That affects how TripIt will develop, he said. Travelers are requesting that TripIt support certain corporate agency sites, for example.
"We haven't actively gone out and sought those kinds of partnerships yet," Brockway said. "We're basically a week old."