FLEDGLING Asian travel search engine, Bezurk, has landed its first major client – the InterContintental Hotels Group (IHG) ahead of its launch later this year.
It is the latest in a slew of Asian travel search engine announcements.
Airline search engine Fare.net, based in Singapore, has already taken off and is offering comparative pricing on airfares across Asia.
Pascal Bordat, CEO and Co-Founder of Fare.Net said: “We see a huge opportunity in Asia for a service such as Fare.Net.
“In the US, several such comparison shopping portals are already successful and growing rapidly.
“We are equally confident of the success of Fare.Net in Asia Pacific.
“After Singapore, we plan to successively launch in Malaysia, Thailand and Australia in the next six months, with other key markets like Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and China soon thereafter. ”
Beijing-based Qunar.com has launched into the Chinese market with a Mandarin language search site, while Oodles 100% Travel Search is planning to go live within a couple of months.
Qunar, which means “where are you going” in Mandarin, offers price comparison search capabilities across air, hotels, car rental and tour packages.
The company plans to complete beta-testing of its English, Japanese and Korean versions by the end of September.
Things are also moving quickly at Bezurk.
Chairman James Vaile said the company will offer accommodation search ”by September or October” before expanding into other areas.
”We think that is a good stepping stone,” he said.
Mr Vaile said he has no doubts the Asian market is ready for specialist search engines, which operate on similar principles to the majors such as Google and Yahoo!
The major difference is that instead of evaluating all travel deals, specialist search engines typically only monitor the sites of its member companies.
These companies then reimburse the search engines on a ‘pay per click’ basis for sending traffic to their sites.
“The reaction has been phenomenal since we launched a couple of weeks ago, particularly from the Internet portals, which recognise what a perfect fit this is for the region,” Mr Vaile said.
Regional Director of E-Commerce at IHG, Craig Hewett, said travel search engines had really worked for the group in the US.
“We want to be apart of the action,” he said.
Mr Hewett said an advantage of travel search engines for suppliers is that they facilitate direct booking.
“By sending customers direct to our branded websites – including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn – it enables us to forge direct relationships between travellers and our brands.”
Meanwhile, in Australia Oodles.com.au is also preparing to start.
But instead of accommodation, it will be launching with car hire and Director Steve Sherlock said agreements had been signed with all major suppliers.
He added that its technology development – outsourced to India – is progressing well.
Mr Sherlock said Oodles had decided to start with car hire because just a handful of companies dominate the global marketplace.
Oodles expects to launch within a couple of months and is currently seeking additional capital.