Kayak to increase UK and European presence

Kayak is poised to establish a European head office in Zurich and will significantly increase its head count and marketing spend in the UK market.

Kayak chief executive Steve Hafner told Travolution the UK team will be increased from just three to ten and it will spend £5 million on TV and poster advertising.

He was talking after he joined some of biggest names in online travel last month by being awarded the Travolution Achievement Award.

Hafner admitted that the meta-search site had work to do to grab its share of the UK market. The UK currently accounts for just 4% of the company’s revenues and Hafner believes this should be around 15%.

“We are currently bigger in Germany than in the UK, which is not right given that the UK travel market is much bigger than in Germany,” he said.

Kayak will this month handle 60 million queries which Hafner said makes it three times the size of all its rivals combined.

The philosophy at Kayak site has always been to make sure the product is as good as it can be before it is marketed and Hafner said some improvements are needed to the UK site.

These revolve around a small number of lowcost airlines it does not feature live pricing for and the hotel market which is “much more fragmented” in Europe, Hafner said.

On the economic outlook Hafner said fears of a double dip recession were well founded. “Everyone is trying to devalue their currencies because that makes the debt easier to service and that primes the pump on price.”

Kayak has seen an increase in the number of searches per person, Hafner said, suggesting users were not liking the prices they were seeing.

Kayak this week became a founding member of the fairsearch alliance which is opposing Google’s take over of software firm ITA in the US.

Other digital luminaries to receive the award in the past have included Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of EasyJet, Stephen Kaufer, president and chief executive of TripAdvisor and Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman.

See this month’s specially-themed Travolution for more news and features from the UK online community’s most prestigious awards event.

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