By Martin Kelly
Asia Pacific’s largest online travel agent, Zuji, has belittled Meta-Search and said it will not be supporting any of the new players that have emerged in the region –, or
This mirrors the approach of major online retailers in the United States, few of whom are involved with the likes of Mobissimo and Kayak – no doubt ultimately seeing them as competition.
However, big suppliers like the InterContinental Hotels Group and Cendant hotel distribution companies are backing the concept, as they have done elsewhere and the Meta-Search Engines are claiming strong industry interest.
Meta-Search Engines are shopping comparison sites that provide consumers with comparative pricing across three main travel categories – air, hotel and car.
Highlighted companies pay the Meta-Search Engines for customer leads on a cost-per-click or cost-per-acquisition basis.
Zuji CEO Scott Blume told delegates at the recent Wired 2005 conference in Singapore he doesn’t believe Meta-Search will work in Asia-Pacific.
“Meta-search is going to struggle in this region,” Mr Blume said. “I think a lot of players are not going to get behind it – we certainly aren’t. I also think it’s a big ask for a lot of Asian consumers.”
But a show of hands among Wired 2005 delegates showed that most disagree, with a significant majority believing that meta-search will succeed in the region.
Bezurk CEO Craig Hewett said Zuji’s views were not reflective of the industry and that his company plans to launch its Singapore and Australian sites by the end of this year.
“We’ve approached pretty much a who’s who of the travel industry across Asia-Pacific and have had an incredibly enthusiastic response to what we’re doing,” Hewett said.
“The fact that InterContinental Hotels group have been our anchor partner and provided early feedback on our business model has given other major hotel partners confidence.
“We have also received great support from similar travel sites to Zuji.”
So what has Zuji got against Meta-Search? Following are some points emailed to TRAVELtech by the company:
“The Meta-Search model relies on the commoditisation of travel down to a single price point for a single travel component.
“Sometimes the best deal for the consumer may not be in saving a few dollars on a flight, but in looking for packages which give value adds or savings on the cost if a total trip – which are not displayed on Meta-Search.
“This makes comparison shopping impossible apart from standalone flights or stand alone hotel nights. In Asia, the cost comparisons will have the added complexity of multi-currency.
“We view our content as proprietary, and are very cautious about deciding where Zuji content will be made available, and how we market our products and services to travellers. 
“We have decided not to provide our content to Meta-Search Engines in Asia.”
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