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Metasearch Growth Reflects Travelers' Appetite for Information

More options for travel creates opportunity for search sites that organize info

Nearly two-thirds of US internet users will research travel via digital channels in 2013, according to eMarketer. As a result, travel metasearch engines—specialized travel aggregators that provide online listings from both travel suppliers and online travel agencies (OTAs)—are becoming more popular, as travel “lookers” seek out one-stop shops to compare different brands, products, packages and prices early in the purchase funnel.

Expected growth at Kayak.com, the metasearch market leader in the US, underscores this trend. Stock analysis firm Trefis estimated in April 2013 that total searches worldwide on Kayak will triple to 3.6 billion queries by 2019, up from 1.2 billion in 2012.

According to Trefis, the majority of travel searches on Kayak are for airlines, but hotel queries are increasing at a faster pace. Hotel searches surged from 24 million in 2007 to 167 million in 2012—a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48%, which outpaced the 38% CAGR of total queries during the same period. Trefis also pointed out that hotel searches are a far more lucrative business, garnering $321 in distribution revenue per 1,000 searches compared with $79 per 1,000 airline requests.

Expansion of (and success with) the metasearch model has led to major shakeups in the marketplace within the past six months. Priceline Corporation acquired Kayak in November 2012, and soon after, Expedia, Inc. moved to acquire European metasearch leader Trivago.

Online travel agencies like Priceline and Expedia have a vested interest in metasearch, as 6% of US traffic comes to them from these types of sites, according to December 2012 data from PhoCusWright and Experian Hitwise.

More than one in 20 visits is notable considering that the top online travel agencies drew between 10 million to 20 million unique visitors in June 2012, according to comScore.


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