Getting Down to Details about Travel Search

I am in a huge pavilion, a sort of giant tent, and a man up in front of us is speaking about his company called Hitwise. His company provides intelligence to on-line travel agencies about their competitors, they can tell you, for instance, where web surfers went after they left your site. The company compiles all sorts of data, including how many words the queries are that people use to find travel sites. For travel, for example, 30% of the searches are three or four words, that means people are getting more savvy in how they search, and narrowing the searches down to exactly what they are looking for.

It’s all part of the famed “long tail of travel” that this conference is titled for. The travel ‘vertical’ is getting longer and longer, and there is money to be made far, far down, not only for travel to places like Vegas or Orlando, but more esoteric places, the kind you can read about on GoNOMAD.

Then a man from Cheapflights came up to the podium. They are ancient giants on the ‘net, formed in 1996, before Google was born. He noted that his company has been funded ‘entirely by profits’ a clear knock at the many VC-funded companies out there today. Will American travelers use a UK company to find flights? He showed a chart showing that Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Hotwire have gone down. While at the bottom of the chart, the squiggle for travel search engines like his are slowly climbing up. He might just be right.