DULLES, Va. -
America Online took a minority stake in Kayak Software, and the two
companies plan to launch a Web-based travel-search engine early
technology and marketing agreement signed Nov. 10 by AOL and Kayak,
a travel-search start-up with former Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity
and Intuit officials at the helm, gives impetus to the
comparison-shopping trend in travel.
The new AOL
travel-search engine, which will be powered by Kayak, will be on
"the open Web" - as opposed to the members-only AOL service - and
meshes with AOL's strategy to move more retail business to the
An AOL spokesman
said the new search engine may build on AOL's new InStore retail
site but that no decisions have been made as to the new
travel-search offering's positioning and branding.
"We're at stage
one in a multistage process," the AOL spokesman said.
Terry Jones, the
chairman of Kayak, said AOL will be able to promote the
travel-search offering to AOL subscribers and that it will have a
"look and feel" different from the Kayak beta site. Kayak, he said,
will continue to promote www.kayak.com and will pursue deals with other
characterized AOL's investment in Kayak as strategic.
"They want to
play, they want to play with us and they are putting their money
down," said ones, the former CEO of Travelocity.
Research noted that $54 billion of the $145 billion online sales
market in 2004 was for travel.
"This is a big
marketplace and we want to get involved," the AOL spokesman
which powers Yahoo Travel and the AOL Travel Channel, has taken
some wallops. Both services will coexist with the portals' search
offerings, which will deliver consumers to supplier sites and
probably non-Travelocity agency sites.
Travelocity's multiyear agreement with AOL remains intact and will
continue to be featured on the 23-million subscriber America Online
service, AOL.com, CompuServe and Netscape.
Using a variety
of operational modes ranging from advertiser-driven displays to
free search results, the meta-search companies aggregate inventory
and transport consumers to supplier or online agency sites for
Some of the
online agencies, however, see the search engines as stealing market
share and commoditizing travel and have opted out of some of
The search field
has shifting alliances. For example, Travelocity ordered Kayak to
cease searching Travelocity.com and Orbitz has a commercial pact with
recently pulled out of Mobissimo.com, and Travelocity moved in.
deal follows Yahoo's purchase of FareChase and may lead to
additional deals among the searchers, which include SideStep,
Mobissimo, Travelzoo, TripAdvisor, Cheapflights.com, SmarterLiving.com and major search players like Google
Forrester Research's vice president of travel research, noted that
80% of consumers use search engines to find retail sites, and that
25% of travel consumers say they feel overwhelmed by the number of
Web sites and ways to buy travel online.
"This can help
suppliers reach brand-neutral or uncertain travelers and people who
don't know their options and bring them to supplier sites for less
money than going through a travel agency," Harteveldt
Harteveldt, may be impacted by the travel-search trend,
could be used by travel agencies to shop and book in the growing
number of business-to-business agency portals that suppliers are
creating," Harteveldt said.
reporter Dennis Schaal, send e-mail to[email protected].