TripAdvisor flights and Fly.com were launched within a couple of weeks of one another in February.
In dueling presentations with financial analysts this week, Expedia Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said TripAdvisor's flight metasearch offering is performing "extraordinarily well," with its searches exceeding the 2.4 million in June which Travelzoo attributed to Fly.com during the Travelzoo conference call.
Khosrowshahi said he wouldn't release TripAdvisor flights' numbers, but I will detail some. Please note that Travelzoo cited "searches" and I will detail "unique searchers." Here are some numbers that the travel team at Compete Inc. put together for me:
• Unique searchers in June: Kayak/SideStep 7,263,159; Bing Travel 1,525,604, TripAdvisor Flights 1,066,847 and Fly.com 913,637.
Compete travel analyst Michael Redbord puts Fly.com's strength in perspective.
"Compared to Fly.com, when you consider the pre-existing monthly traffic delta between respective owners Travelzoo and TripAdvisor, you're talking 4 million versus 12 million uniques (Compete June numbers)," Redbord says. "The opportunity for TA to leverage its existing engaged user base is probably at least 3 times as large as Travelzoo leveraging its own to drive traffic to Fly.com."
In terms of monetizing metasearch, the number of total searches is a more relevant metric than unique searchers or unique visitors. The number of searches that a unique searcher might conduct can vary widely from website to website.
But, Compete's unique searcher numbers, if they are to be believed, portray some better-than-expected Fly.com strength in relation to its competitors.
And, Compete's June numbers place Fly.com ahead of TripAdvisor flights in terms of unique visitors, 1,257,037 to 1,241,229. Again, that shows some unexpected muscle from Fly.com, a sort of David versus Goliath story.
Fly.com and metasearch is a key part of Travelzoo's growth strategy, along with subscriber growth for its deal newsletters. As part of that subscriber growth strategy, Travelzoo began publishing show and event advertising in its North America newsletters and is starting to do likewise in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
With the kind of unique searcher numbers and total searches that Fly.com is starting to post, it looks like Fly.com has the potential to fly.
Travelzoo reported that it spent $9.6 million in marketing in the U.S. and Canada in the second quarter, an increase of $2 million from the second quarter of 2008. And, Travelzoo attributed much of the jump to "a $914,000 increase" in Fly.com marketing.
Thus, Fly.com already is a player.
After all, the advertising/media business is hot.
TripAdvisor revenue accounted for about 10 percent of Expedia Inc. revenue in the second quarter.
Now, you know why the rise of metasearch start-ups seemingly is endless while the online travel agency business is saturated.