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.

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Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

About the Writer :: Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is the managing partner for venture firm VaultPAD Ventures– an accelerator devoted exclusively to Aviation Travel and Tourism.

VaultPAD also is the parent company for consulting firm, T2Impact. Timothy has been with tnooz since the beginning, writing in particular aviation, technology, startups and innovation.

One of the first companies to emerge from the accelerator is Air Black Box. a cloud-based software company providing airline connectivity solutions and in production with airlines in Asia Pacific.

Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team, where he headed the international and ground transportation portfolios. He also spent time with Worldspan as the international head of technology, where he managed technology services from infrastructure to product.

He 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



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  1. Max Kraynov

    Could you please check your facts before publishing such things as “Skyscanner is #1 in Russia”? They’re nowhere near #1, which has been held by Aviasales.ru for longer than 1 year already.

    • Cob Br

      Max it’s a very strong statement to make… http://www.skyscanner.ru has desktop, iphone, ipad, android, windows platforms and mobile site traffic.

      • Max Kraynov

        Mobile traffic is peanuts in Russia (growing, though), hence the argument (while correct on the surface) is less relevant than it looks 🙂

        Just use Alexa to compare the web traffic.

        • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

          I would add that I find Alexa traffic to be trend representative but not a good measure of holistic traffic. So definition of “facts” is based on a variety of measurements. I stand by my statement on Skyscanner being #1 for the Russian market. If we cannot agree then we will have to just agree to disagree.

          I am sure you will however agree on the fact that the big US players do not have the depth of footprint that they might wish to have and that local does indeed mean that there are a variety of solutions – some within a market – some from without.

          Perhaps if the article was focused on the CIS then I should have mentioned Aviasales and others such as Momundo even Jizo more prominently. Consider that now corrected.

          • Max Kraynov


            well said and let’s agree to disagree. In respect to Jizo – please ask them if they’re profitable and have any runway in terms of operating capital.

        • Max Kraynov

          to get myself clear: I don’t mind Skyscanner’s illusion of being #1 in Russia. Just more room for other players to eat its lunch while S/S is not looking.

  2. Oz Har Adir

    While I believe Wego’s move to the Arabic market is a smart move, claiming a first in meta there is far from right, as Hotelscombined has been active in Arabic (and Hebrew) for over 2 years and even has a dedicated Arabic iphone app for most of that time: http://press.hotelscombined.com/Press-Releases/HotelsCombined-Launches-Arabic-For-iFindHotels-iPhone-App.php

    • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

      The issue was for a meta search. So I think my article is still correct. There are many players who have multi lingual sites (single and double byte).

      My point is not to say who was first but the fact that local is now relevant. This is counter intuitive to the concept of the web as global homogenization (a someone self centric view that first generation US based companies took).

      Localization is hard. Slapping language on it and calling it local is not enough. However it is a good first step.



      • Richard

        No matter what improvement HTML standard has became, it is getting bulky day by day.

  3. Alex Bainbridge

    I find it quite interesting that the “local” word, in flights, tends to refer to countries (as per this article). In tours, activities, experiences etc when we refer to “local” – we are down to a region or a city basis…..


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