Expansion beyond a travel company’s home market is always a challenge and a key factor in the trajectory of a company.
It took Google Flights, for example, about a year and a half after debuting its U.S. domestic flight metasearch service to launch an international product as its business development people had to do the legwork involved in establishing partnerships with individual airlines and online travel agencies in Europe and Asia. Google got a lot of heat for the protracted nature of the international rollout but in retrospect 18 months really wasn’t an immense period of time for such a thing.
Enter Hipmunk, the U.S.-based flight- and hotel-metasearch company that was founded in 2010. Hipmunk this week debuted the fruits of a new partnership, its first with another metasearch company, namely Scotland-headquartered Skyscanner.
The goal is to make Hipmunk’s global flight search product more comprehensive.
The partnership is merely an affiliate relationship — and not a strategic alliance — and comes through Skyscanner for Business, which counts some 300 partners, including 50 metasearch companies, two years after the launch of the business unit. Other affiliate partners include Lonely Planet, Wanderio, TourSpain, Sletat.ru, Rome2rio, dealScoopr, Secret Escapes, Waymate, and others of diverse significance.
As Skyscanner’s 50 affilliate partnerships with other metasearch companies show, meta to meta partnerships aren’t unprecedented, although the Skyscanner-Hipmunk arrangement is fairly high-profile. In fact, at various junctures Kayak provided services to Bing Travel, Farecompare and Travelzoo’s Fly.com.
If you search Hipmunk for a New York to Dubrovnik flight, for example, you might see Turkish Airlines itineraries such as New York-Istanbul-Zagreb-Dubrovnik. The flight-search results on Hipmunk.com in this instance say they are “Powered by Skyscanner,” and in this case the flights are bookable through Spain-based online travel agency eDreams.
Hipmunk co-founder and CEO Adam Goldstein says the goal of the partnership is to make Hipmunk’s existing international flight-search service more comprehensive by bringing in Skyscanner’s inventory. Of the new airline and online travel agency relationships that Skyscanner is adding to Hipmunk, Goldstein says, “It would be very time-consuming to do them one by one.”
Goldstein says it isn’t unusual for Hipmunk to partner with competitors, although the Skyscanner affiliate relationship is Hipmunk’s first with a metasearch rival.
The Skyscanner partnership doesn’t portend a full-fledged launch in international markets for Hipmunk. The company’s roadmap hasn’t changed, Goldstein says, in that it still plans on focusing on the U.S. market.
Hipmunk has an attractive, easy-to-use flight and hotel search product but it has had trouble getting to the next level in the face of competition from Kayak, TripAdvisor and Trivago.
Traffic and revenue are growing, Goldstein says. “Everything’s moving in the right direction.”
Skyscanner ironically has tried to make inroads into the U.S. market, although it doesn’t appear to be a major focus for the company. The company does have an Americas office in Miami with around two dozen people, and reports that U.S. revenue has grown 115 percent year over year while unique visitors have climbed 50 percent.
For its part, the Hipmunk affiliate relationship doesn’t change Skyscanner’s strategic focus, which is “absolutely global,” says Hugh Aitken, Skyscanner’s director of business development.
The affiliate relationship doesn’t involve Hipmunk providing Skyscanner with any content, Goldstein says.