US meta search engine SideStep has claimed its launch in the UK will help consumers simplify their online experience by sifting through the myriad travel websites in one search.
The company has designed a UK version of the site containing content based on its current US partnerships. It has deals with more than 100 companies including online agencies, low-cost carriers, scheduled airlines, hotel groups and car-rental firms.
The launch of SideStep in the UK comes as a survey commissioned by the search engine claimed Brits spend an average of 25 hours online researching each holiday, with four out of five now using the Internet to research or make a booking.
The survey, which quizzed 1,500 UK holidaymakers, also claimed searching for holidays in the workplace is costing British business £2.5 billion a year.
SideStep executive Russ Lemelin said they were “astonished” at the time and money wasted on web searching.
“Our research shows the average Brit checks six sites before booking a holiday,” he said, adding SideStep can cut out individual searches by scanning multiple sites simultaneously.
However, opinion is divided on meta search engines, with some observers believing they could take market share from traditional search engines and others insisting their impact will be minimal.
“The public realise they only search websites where there are commercial deals in place and therefore only offer limited choice,” said one.
Lemelin said the UK was the first logical market to gain a foothold before an international roll-out.
He said figures from market analysts PhoCusWright show the UK will represent 35% of the £28 billion European online travel market in 2006.