To hear Rick Seaney tell it, Google's pending buy of ITA Software -- and the uncertainty surrounding it -- is impacting a whole lot of the travel industry.
And, he's not just talking about the big boys (and girls), namely Expedia, Kayak,Sabre and their silent partner Microsoft, all of whom are circling the wagons in opposition to the acquisition as the Justice Dept. reviews the merger.
Seaney, sitting in the lobby of the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., where attendees were trickling in for tomorrow's start of a PhoCusWright conference, points out that the deal may complicate fund-raising efforts for the dozens of start-ups who will be making their elevator pitches as part of the meeting's Travel Innovation Summit.
When the newbie travel tech companies attempt to raise funds, the first question many venture capital folks may ask is how will you get traffic from Google if the search-engine giant creates a "click magnet" with ITA.
"It's going to scare off the smart money," Seaney says.
For its part FareCompare, the metasearch company and ITA customer, is accelerating plans to alter its marketing mix to reduce its reliance on Google, given the uncertainty about what the Google-ITA air product would look like if the DOJ blesses the deal.
Seaney says FareCompare, which estimates it will take in $10 million to $11 million in revenue in 2010, plans to alter its mix of marketing channels by putting increased emphasis on deal newsletters, content syndicastion, banner ads, advertising networks and TV ads.
FareCompare, which has 38 employees, up from 18 at the end of 2009, also plans to take its email list of 1.2 million names and use it to engage in "advanced CRM," Seaney says, such as sending targeted emails based on keyword searches.
Seaney won't come right out and say he's against the Google-ITA Software deal, contending he wants to learn more about it.
He's probably being very diplomatic.
"We have a large organic base in Google, so it's something we have to address," Seaney says.
Seaney says he believe DOJ will approve the marriage, but he "wouldn't be surprised" if the government places "fences" on the merger.
Possible conditions may include a mandate that ITA customers get timely software updates, that the Google airfare display cannot be limited to just airline and online travel agency advertisers and that the lowest fare must be shown first instead of a link to the highest bidder.
Seaney describes the effort to win over the loyal consumer, especially in air travel, as "hand to hand combat."
And, with the Google-ITA Software acquisition looming, that combat could become more intense.
On the other hand, there are no guarantees that Google will be successful in developing a new travel product.
As the Kayak contingent loves to point out, "thanks for Wave and Buzz."