The State of Travel Metasearch in 2015

by Dennis Schaal + Skift Team - Feb 2015

Skift Research Take

While Trivago, Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Momondo are spending millions of TV dollars to introduce consumers to their metasearch services, Google is moving in on them with zero TV spend. A look at the factors, including the rush toward direct bookings, that are shaping the entire metasearch sector in 2015.

Report Overview

Executive summary

Travel metasearch continued its growth spurt in 2014, and 2015 is shaping up as a year of disruption.

One of the most significant developments is that 2015 will be the year that Google finally becomes a force in hotel metasearch after nearly four years of near-irrelevance. The seeds were sewn in late 2014 when Google revamped the format of its Hotel Ads unit, bringing hotel metasearch right into search results and eliminating the need for users to navigate to its Google Hotel Finder site before being handed off anew to an online travel agency or hotel website.

With the streamlined service, users can get from results to the online travel agency or hotel website in just two clicks. In essence, Google, with all of its search engine traffic and power has become a metasearch player without a metasearch site, and major hotel groups from InterContinental Hotels Group to Accor hotels are testifying to Google’s traction.

While Trivago, Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Momondo are spending millions of dollars to introduce consumers to their metasearch services, Google is moving in on them with zero TV spend. After all, Google has something the others don’t have — the Google search engine. It is as if competitors’ worst nightmares are now coming into view, and it isn’t a dream.

This takes place as many of the major metasearch sites sprint toward partnering with online travel agencies, airlines, hotels, and car-rental sites to facilitate bookings right within the metasearch sites and apps. It’s all in the name of improving the customer experience and conversion rates.

But while this blurring of the lines between metasearch sites and online travel agencies is taking place, there are legions of critics and boycotters, including some major online travel agencies, airlines and hotel groups.

In an interview for this Skift Trends Report, InterContinental Hotels Group’s Michael Menis discloses that the hotel group is rethinking its whole metasearch strategy because of the rising costs of participation and because the metasearch drive to take the bookings themselves is hurting IHG’s goal of spearheading traffic to its own websites and apps.

In this report, you can read Q&As with Menis of InterContinental Hotels Group, financial analyst Ken Sena of Evercore Partners and Skyscanner COO Mark Logan on the latest trends in metasearch.

Although metasearch is making substantial gains, Sena of Evercore argues that the sector is becoming disadvantaged because data is becoming the holy grail and the online travel agencies are much closer to transaction data and better positioned to service suppliers than the metas are because of all the data. Officials from American Airlines Group and United Airlines also chimed in on why they believe metasearch has not kept pace with the evolution of the airlines’ own websites and products.

Skift engaged with metasearch players, airlines, hotels, and advertising experts from around the world to pinpoint the latest trends impacting the sector. As part of the report, Skift presents insights and strategies from nearly a dozen companies on how to optimize metasearch participation and what needs to be done.