Kayak to launch ad platform in the UK

Travel search engine Kayak appears content to let its UK rivals do all the running.

A significant player in the US, Kayak launched in the UK with a flights search option in December 2006 and is only now integrating hotels – holidays and car hire will follow in the next few months.

But while Kayak may be playing catch-up with the likes of SideStep, Kelkoo and TravelSupermarket in terms of product offering on its site, advertisers are being courted with what could be a significant development for the travel search engine sector.

During the next few weeks the Kayak classified advertising platform will be introduced to the UK, run out of the London office and complementing its existing sponsored links provided by Google.

The Kayak Network will serve ads for products based on the exact search terms specified by the user, such as ‘London Heathrow’ and ‘Paris Charles De Gaulle’, rather than keywords appearing anywhere on a results page. Kayak Network results will appear ahead of Google’s sponsored links.

Meanwhile, Kayak admits the white labelling of search functionality into third parties, a practice pursued by so many of its rivals, will be an important part of plans to raise its profile in the UK.

Keith Melnick, executive vice-president of corporate development, says the company saw significant growth in the US after it signed a string of white label deals with AOL, USAToday, ComCast and About.com.

Kayak should not expect an easy ride, based on its ability to win major contracts in the US – in fact, competition is particularly fierce in the UK for what is becoming an important area for travel search engines.

TravelSupermarket has secured three major contracts in 2007 – powering travel search for the Guardian and Telegraph websites, as well as Virgin Media – and SideStep is on duty for mobile phone network Orange.

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