Friday, May 05, 2006

Anyone for a flight search engine?

So it seems the UK tourist board VisitBritain is getting in on the act and has launched a flight search tool on its website.

[Read the story here]

This is an interesting move and yet, while it rightly claims that it can’t favour a particular airline or aggregator – being government funded and all that – it is interesting that it has created a system based, it admits, on the Meta search model championed by the likes of Kelkoo.

The deep linking direct to a booking engine landing page is a smart idea, for a start, rather than just highlighting a price and then sending the user to the homepage of a website.

But what is perhaps most interesting is that it demonstrates, with the right tools churning away behind the scenes, that any business or organisation can effectively move into the travel space.

VisitBritain has realised that practicalities of actually getting to the UK for the inbound tourist market can be captured early in the research process.

Browsing for ideas of where to go in Britain? Need a flight? Don’t waste time with a search engine, just search and book it from here…

It is this strategy that could see other operations branch out into the search and book process – and not just for flights.

For starters the London 2012 Olympics is guaranteed to throw up a multitude of new websites for the incoming sports fan; there are dozens of concert, event and attraction websites – such as Ticketmaster – in the UK; and, of course, there are rail, coach and ferry online operations.

Perhaps even B2B media brands specialising in the online travel industry should have a flight or hotel search engine on their websites!?!

[That's enough blue sky thinking - Ed]

If this development catches on, it really could be open season for the consumer, which is where the internet should be heading anyway, some argue.

But as with so much of the rapid spread of functionality in the online world, where will this leave the existing players?

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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