Time for travel companies to turn investor in online?

September 26, 2007

Travel is the fastest moving vertical in the online world. A staggering amount of money changes hands every day from consumer to online travel websites and they are consistently in the top 20 visited websites with travel related search terms also featuring high up the ranks. So is it about time that the larger travel companies started investing in web start-ups that could complement their offering, drive extra traffic and increase revenue?

It would seem so! Expedia bought Tripadvisor back in 2004, that wasn’t a huge surprise as Expedia, while an online travel agent, are actually a technology company who happen to sell travel rather well. What is surprising is the news that TUI Travel (the newly merged group who include Thomson and First Choice) are buying Holidays Uncovered, a well known holiday reviews website.

This is almost unheard of for a traditional tour operator group to go out of their way to acquire what is in essence a web business. Unheard of, but it does make perfect sense!

Holidays Uncovered is a well established site which positions very well in search engine rankings. It receives high traffic, is trusted and will drive quality traffic to their site if they utilise it correctly. I would hope they leave it as a stand alone service and just integrate the review content into their own websites, making the most of it’s independent position in search engines and keeping consumers feeling like they are contributing to a community when they write a review.

Hopefully they will rebuid Holidays Uncovered as it’s built on legacy HTML and looks awful. It does however, jump TUI Travel into a unique position by owning this kind of web property so I think it’s a shrewd move.

We should all (as online travel participants) be looking closely at new entrants and existing travel related websites which could add value to our own offerings. Spotting the next Facebook travel app and snapping it up to be your own could be a very lucrative move!

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