31 Oct 2018

Metasearch can survive and thrive (with some tweaks along the way)

We now admit to starting our theme month in October pondering how much discussion there was to be had around metasearch in travel.

It was, for many years, the errant child of the industry – sites that got a lot of traffic (and some brands raised a lot of investment money), but its inherent usefulness as a consumer tool was purely, some argued, to compare prices.

Metasearch engines obviously served a purpose but didn’t really close the loop on the growing of trend of services for the broader ecosystem that wanted to be part of the inspiration, search, booking and post-trip elements of travel.

But the market started to evolve at the turn of the decade.

First of all, Google nailed its colors to the mast when it bought ITA Software – a deal that was the basis for its Google Flights platform.

The search giant also started exploring how metasearch could be a cornerstone of how it wanted to become a key player in the market for consumers looking for accommodation – on this occasion also combining with how users interact with maps.

The travel industry took notice, with a succession of deals that have continued to this day: Kayak sold to Booking Holdings; Skyscanner went to Ctrip; and, more recently, both Momondo and HotelsCombined have also ended up in the Booking Holdings stable of brands.

But has the concept of metasearch altered particularly over the years?

Our series of articles during October have suggested that the metasearch model is also, like many other sectors in the industry, at a fascinating point in its evolution.

Google is hell bent on continuing its strategy, for example (there’s some associated analysis here), yet the concept of meta-book is where many believe the market is heading next.

The idea of multimodal (covering multiple transportation options) is gaining ground, not least with a huge round going into GoEuro this month.

The market is perhaps not as closed to new entrants as some may have believed, as well, with startups still making a mark in their own way (and some noisy challengers have figured out another path).

We’ve also heard how some of the brands that have worked to figure out a different role are still there in the market, such as HomeToGo, plus how some think the entire metasearch concept for hotels is coming to an end.

So, metasearch is actually at a critical point.

Issues for metasearch brands

Some key areas for discussion at The Phocuswright Conference:

  • Differentiating against the rising influence of Google’s metasearch strategy.
  • The length to which will meta-book will go.
  • Sectors that are still ripe for the model.

REGISTER NOW! Skyscanner, Kayak and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
Click here for details, tickets and the program for this year’s event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.