Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Finding transparency in search

There’s a big difference between talking about ‘ improved conversion rates’ in a press release and using the same phrase in a regulatory filing. So when moneysupermarket group plc tells the London Stock Exchange that its travel vertical has improved revenue per visitor as well as revenue per transaction in 2007, the OTAs need to look at numbers as closely as travelsupermarket’s direct competitors.

Travelsupermarket.com’s 2007 numbers show big increases across its metrical board;

  • visitors 37m (06: 19.7m)
  • transactions 30.6m (06: 17.2m)
  • click-based revenues £13.6m (06: £6.8m)
  • total revenues £15m (06: £7.5m)
  • revenue per visitor £0.41 (06: £0.34)
  • revenue per transaction £0.43 (06: £0.40)

Looks like the millions of pounds put into TV advertising is working then! Analysts were shown a slide based on a ‘custom defined Hitwise report’ which ranked travelsupermarket as the UK’s most visited travel comparison web site in January – the key month for bookings in the UK.

So travelsupermarket.com seems in quite good shape for its new MD. Travolution Towers has learnt that there is a shortlist of three – former travel supremo Chris Nixon is overseeing the hunt and said he wanted someone with international experience at senior level. Travel or search experience – watch this space.

And what about the travel search generally? Kayak’s takeover of Sidestep at the back-end of last year showed the sector has legs when commentator such as Henry Harteveldt at Forrester pointed out that, in the US at least, travel search's market share was holding steady at 12-15% of the online travel sector.

Kayak.com had 5.72% of the UK market in Jan08, according to travelsupermarket’s Hitwise report. Sidestep, bless, had 0.94%. Kayak remember raised $196m as part of the SideStep takeover: Mobissimo is lurking with its revamped intuitive and customisable engine. SkyScanner – 11.34% of the UK market in Jan - picked up some funding of its own in November.

And with the market leader in Europe’s biggest online travel market confirming improved conversion rates and hikes in visitors and revenue per visitor, 2008 could be the year when travel search finds itself.

Martin Cowen, chief writer, Travolution


Richard Hartigan said...

You can't imagine that the search engines will stay out of this market forever.

Travolution Blogger said...

The smart money is on 'the search engines' making a move into this market, although the sometimes Google-centric view of search means that Yahoo!'s Farechase is often overlooked.

But you're spot on – it would be hard to argue against the big G muscling in.