Local is the new black in travel search
What is local? Metasearch has not had a huge amount of luck with developing operations in local markets.
The leader in some respects these days is Skyscanner, which has worked really hard at developing a local delivery capability. For example, it is number one in many markets such as Russia.
The US leader, Kayak, has not managed to replicate its fortress-like position in America, but does a respectable job in traffic despite often seeming to struggle with content (like most players in metasearch-land).
Meanwhile the leading player in Asia, Wego, has gone through a metamorphosis of late. I managed to catch up with its ex-CEO, now non-executive chairman Martin Symes in Dubai during Arabian Travel Market.
“Larry Page”-like Ross Veitch has now re-assumed the top slot. With a new investor on board (Tiger) and a new office in Jakarta opening, the company seems to be going through a growth phase but with a twist. It is taking its brand of local metasearch out for a global spin.
What’s so special about the “new Wego”? It has taken a page out of the Skyscanner playbook and is targeting new country markets by offering local content in a new setting.
With many new languages now on offer, Wego is bringing the fight back to the Scottish contingent. Coincidently, Skyscanner put down a footprint in Singapore at the end of 2011.
Wego is putting in some significant work in the areas of social media and mobile. While its existing development team will stay in Singapore, Wego will move its social and mobile development to its new address in Jakarta in the very near future.
The Indonesian market is experiencing one of the most dramatic turnarounds of any on the map, so Wego is wise to focus on it. Its growth is massive, and it is not without coincidence that the largest order for jet aircraft ever made was placed by an Indonesian airline, Lion Air.
So what’s next for Wego? With Martin Symes now based back in the UK, we can probably expect them to seriously look at EMEA and shed its Asia-Pacific moniker.
With the new Arabic version announced this week at ATM, it has stolen a march on just about everyone. Expect a push in other key markets where they will be able to dominate.
If Kayak thinks its on/off again IPO will give it an edge in the international market, there are at least two strong spirited competitors who are not going to give any quarter in the world’s local markets.
I suspect that investors will be checking the fine print of any prospectus from Kayak to see where international fits.
With the likelihood of an easy global expansion from Kayak receding, the challenge for others in the search space (including Google) is to take on the leading players in the different geographies. Wego and Skyscanner make it look easy. It certainly isn’t.
Local is the new black.
Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is a contributing Node to Tnooz. He writes about travel in particular aviation, technology, startups and innovation in long and short forms.
He has two day jobs: managing partner at travel consultancy firm, T2Impact, where he serves as the lead for the airline, aviation and airport practice. His is also co-founder of VaultPAD, an accelerator devoted exclusively to travel and travel-related startup businesses.
Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team where he headed the international and ground transportation portfolios, before founding T2Impact in 1998 and VaultPAD in 2012.
He has worked in aviation and travel distribution for more than 30 years, including time with Worldspan as head of technology where he managed international technology services from infrastructure to product.
Timothy is also a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes as Professor Sabena. He sits on a number of advisory and executive boards.