Do not underestimate the significance of the purchase by TUI Travel of Holidays Uncovered, which we were pleased to unravel with the help of Travel Rants earlier this week.
Although the newly formed PLC didn't mention it by name in its trading update on Wednesday 26 September ("an independent package holiday review site"), Holidays Uncovered is most definitely now a TUI Travel-owned property.
[Nevertheless, Graham Donoghue, new media director at TUI Travel, brushed aside any queries about the deal during the Travolution Question Time on Tuesday night]
A bit of digging around in the past few days has revealed a number of things:
- No-one has a clue as to how much the deal is worth (an affiliate network told us today it regularly pumped around £30,000 a month into Holidays Uncovered, and guessed at around £2 million).
- Secondly, the deal was so hush-hush, with even some senior members of TUI Travel kept in the dark.
- The previous owner has never been seen in public and spends much of his time, according to one source, on the QE2.
The Holidays Uncovered site has, in the words of one TUI exec, "user experience from hell" - but it is likely the site will be overhauled over the coming months.
There is, inevitably, a certain amolunt of scepticism in the industry as to the motives behind the deal and whether TUI can do to Holidays Uncovered what Expedia did to TripAdvisor - in other words, a successful integration of an independent review site into a mainstream business without it losing its credibility.
There are plenty of reasons as to why the deal has taken place, but primarily because of its reasonably high traffic and very good page ranking. "SEO-ed to the hilt", is how one contact put it rather more bluntly yesterday.
It certainly appears that every second site is introducing or improving its user reviews, mainly to improve user experience and help with search engine optimisation.
But in a market which is seeing so-called traditional companies making huge efforts to boost their web presence, it is likely that deals such as that for Holidays Uncovered - or between individual review sites - will become commonplace in the next few years.
Kevin May, editor, Travolution
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