With so many online travel sites crowding the market, you’d think we were nearing a Web 2.0 travel bubble. But according to travel information search engine UpTake, which is launching May 14, there’s still an untapped niche in the market: a travel-opinions supersite.
The market is extremely fragmented with thousands of micro-sites for individual hotels, beaches, airlines and leisure activities. UpTake’s goal is to gather opinions from all of those sites together and become the most comprehensive research tool used by travelers.
“The booking sites are good when you know that you’re going to Maui on May 17 and want to stay in a Hilton Hotel. But if you don’t even know whether to go to Maui or Kauai, it’s not that easy,” said CEO Yen Lee, who was General Manager of Yahoo Travel before he left to start UpTake in late 2006.
The site features a personalized filter that, unlike traditional search engines, lets you customize your search according to profiles such as “kid friendly”, “beach”, “romantic” or “adventurous”. These keywords are matched againt a database of more than 20 million traveler opinions from more than 1,000 review sites across the web, including WAYN, TripSay, IgoUgo and, potentially, another newcomer by the name of Tripwolf (more on them later). The ratings collection now spans about half a million places to go, things to do and places to stay. The database will expand rapidly, according to Lee. Searches will be matched with search word ads displayed along with non-commercial search results.
A traveler with unclear travel plans visits, on average, 22 sites before booking a flight or hotel, according to a recent study by Google and Comscore. UpTake wants to turn these 22 jumps into one smooth stop. “We’re like Google, but we’ll only do travel”, said Lee. But he added that unlike Google , UpTake’s database is prepared to ask travellers the big questions: why they’re travelling and who they’re travelling with.