The investment required to establish a holidays price comparison website is a huge barrier to entry, Barclays delegates were told.
Chris Roche, who last year left leading UK online travel agent Travel Republic to turn Travel.co.uk, which is owned by Comtec founder Simon Powell, into a metasearch site for holidays, tipped Google as the most likely entrant in the market.
Roche, who left TraveLco.uk after just three months to join online travel agent Loveholidays, said the cost of acquiring enough traffic, from channels such as Google, was prohibitive.
“Yes, there is space in the comparison meta market for holidays,” he said, “Technically it’s possible, but it requires quite a lot of cash to acquire the critical mass of customers.”
The most successful meta search sites, such as Skyscanner (flights) and Trivago (hotels)have established themselves by offering comprehensive market price comparison for single components before adding searches for other product such as car hire.
But no company has really perfected holiday or package comparison, which is complicated by the nature of the product and the problem of comparing traditional pre· pocked operator ordeals and holidays packaged dynamically, although sites such as Travelsupermarket, Dealchecker and Kayak do provide a holiday comparison service.
Roche added: “We have not seen a new entrant in meta for a while. The most obvious entrant for me would be Google. I would not be surprised if they look at holidays.”
Roche described the search process in travel as “terrible” and said the main way online agents can differentiate themselves is through customer service and by analysing data to find ways of making life easier for the consumer.