Gekko hotel search site on track for March launch

Online hotel review service Gekko is gearing up for a March launch despite the current economic downturn.

The site, which is backed by Dutch entrepreneur, Dino van Es, is current speaking to investors about its second round of funding which should take it through to 2011.

Van Es is also behind online share-trading service Zecco and was prompted to launch Gekko because of his frustration of existing online hotel search services.

Former Silverjet IT director George Henderson is running Gekko as chief operating officer and has opened a UK office with a team of 11 including five full-time members of staff.

The site is also looking for a chief technical officer, a chief marketing officer and a business development manager.

Gekko already has partnerships in place with 32 online accommodation providers and is also signing deals with restaurant aggregators.

The plan is for Gekko to begin a private beta in the next few weeks for shareholders and business partners, followed by a public beta before the March launch.

According to Henderson, Gekko has carried out research in six countries to find out what out is important to people when they choose a hotel or restaurant. The research is being used to formulate nine questions to ask consumers when they come to the site. Results served up will be based on their answers.

Henderson said: “We want to match the consumer to a small set of ideally suited hotels or restaurants.”

The service will also provide photos, videos and a booking facility for hotels as well as many restaurants as possible.

He added that the site was going ahead despite the economic turmoil because of the predicted growth figures for online travel in Europe in 2009.

“PhoCuswright numbers still point to double digit growth but even if we did not get that – 2/3% is still huge numbers. If consumers are going to stay in hotels less or only go out once a month then they will be more discerning about where they go and our proposition plays into that.”

The plan is to extend the service across Europe and to the US. A mobile version is also in the pipeline.

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