Skyscanner opens data to trade

By Travolution
By Travolution
February 14, 2014 11:11 AM GMT

Price comparison site offers customer behaviour trends to industry buyers. Lee Hayhurst reports from last week's Travel Weekly Business Breakfast Skyscanner founder and chief executive Gareth Williams 

Leading British price comparison website Skyscanner is in the process of opening up its vast store of valuable data to industry partners.

A new business-to-business unit is being led by Filip Filipov, former chief operating officer at air fare search technology specialist Everbread, which failed last August.

Skyscanner expects high demand from the trade for the insights it can offer suppliers and agents into customer demand 
and behaviour.

Speaking at a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast last week, Skyscanner founder and chief executive Gareth Williams said the data the company can provide offered considerable potential.

“We are relatively unusual in that we have users from all over the world with a database of travel intentions – people expressing where they want to go,” he said.

“That’s got to be pretty valuable to hoteliers and airlines looking at demand forecasts, but also building models around what would happen if they created a new route, for instance.

“All of that, combined with what the current market rate is for something, is incredibly detailed and valuable information.

“So we are really keen to make that available to the people who we work with and allow them to get insights and value from that.”

Williams said the travel industry can see from purchasing data what people end up buying, but it does not do enough to assess whether it is meeting customer demand pre-purchase.

“I don’t think it’s really looked at enough,” said Williams. “And then there are thousands of uses of this data we haven’t even thought of.

“If you imagine looking at a map of where people are physically and then what airport around London they end up in, that’s really interesting data.”

Skyscanner hopes to have a number of paid-for products available to trade partners this year that will allow them 
to gain access to industry data and trends.

It is already working on some live projects and on pilots ahead of a move to expand this service to other customers.

Williams told Business Breakfast attendees how Skyscanner was established by him and two co-founders 14 years ago, none of whom had experience of the travel industry.

As software developer, Williams built a prototype system to help him find flights on routes that he would take regularly to Europe to visit his brother who was working as a ski instructor.

“The world has gone from ‘everything will be online’ to ‘there’s not a valid commercial model online’. And so we were slightly contrarian,” he said.

“Really, the sector of price comparison didn’t exist. I thought, and still think, of ourselves as a vertical search engine.”

Originally Skyscanner focused on the booming European budget flight sector, but its first major shift was to expand to cover traditional flights and go worldwide.

The second big shift came last year when it added hotels and car hire.

Williams and his co-founders worked to establish the firm early on before its first funding came in 2007 when it took £2.7 million from Scottish Equity partners.

Last year backing secured from US Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sequoia Capital valued the firm at $800 million.

Williams said one of the secrets to its survival was not securing investment too early, thereby enabling it to establish itself without the pressure of big expectations.

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