Thursday, July 30, 2009 Toe-to-Toe with TripAdvisor Flights

Travelzoo's is displaying surprising strength in metasearch when measured against TripAdvisor's flight-search tool in terms of unique searchers and unique visitors when you consider that Travelzoo is starting from a much smaller base.

TripAdvisor flights and 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 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 913,637.

Compete travel analyst Michael Redbord puts's strength in perspective.

"Compared to, 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"

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 strength in relation to its competitors.

And, Compete's June numbers place ahead of TripAdvisor flights in terms of unique visitors, 1,257,037 to 1,241,229. Again, that shows some unexpected muscle from, a sort of David versus Goliath story. 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 is starting to post, it looks like 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 marketing.

Thus, 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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis,

looking at the numbers I see on for tripadvisor seems to suggest a higher number for unique visitors to the site for June ( - 2,833,155) am I missing something there?


Mike Redbord said...


Mike from Compete here--nice digging. You make a good point that Tripadvisor's traffic to its tool, which is an element of a much larger site, is trickier for us to measure than traffic to a domain like kayak. The effort is to get the best apples-to-apples comparison when looking at the tool compared to a domain like So...a little context:

Our counts are from's consumer-accessible flight section and not the subdomain. appears to have been repurposed in June by Tripadvisor--it contains content not strictly related to tool usage (polls, for instance) and is accessible mostly for 3rd party technology partners.

You'll note that as of today, if you do a google search for "Tripadvisor flights" or "" the subdomain doesn't even index, indicating it's a bit of a different beast. It's a possible sign of things to come, though. And Goliath might be ready to rumble given the big spike in June.

SeanONeill said...

TripAdvisor’s move into the world of airfare search included a first-of-its-kind feature that calculates the true price of a trip, taking into account fees for checked baggage, food service, and any other airline services. It's incredibly powerful that TripAdvisor can give travelers the scoop from other travelers on a plane's best and worst rows via SeatGuru, too.

Given the relatively lack of paid marketing, is doing really well!

Darren said...


Thanks for the explanation, makes sense. Do you have any plans to handle things like this and's travel section to better reflect the true visitor numbers? (great site by the way)

Keep up the great work!

Mike Redbord said...


Bing's meta search web architecture is a little simpler for us than TA's...we don't really have a choice between "organic" and "partnered" type traffic with Bing. Everything is housed under the same pages.

Interesting note on Bing Travel, though: we observered about 2 million unique visitors to Farecast in May before Farecast was rolled into Bing's suite to power Then in June the tool saw just under 3 million in traffic--significant gains from the new placement and attention. We're excited to see what's next for Bing Travel.