Kayak To Power About.com's Travel Search Engine

Meta travel engine Kayak and About.com have entered into a two-year distribution partnership, the companies announced last week. Kayak will serve as About.com's "premier booking partner," powering a travel search engine for the consumer information site, which was acquired by the New York Times Co. in March.

Links to Kayak's site will be located on About.com's travel section, as well as in articles about destinations. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kayak, monetized solely through sponsored search links, introduced a paid search ad program for travel advertisers last month. Kayak combs over 100 online travel sites in an effort to provide real-time prices for some 85,000 hotels and 551 airlines. The start-up was created by the co-founders of travel sites Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity.

Unlike online travel agencies, such as Expedia and Orbitz, Kayak directs users to airline and hotel sites to make purchases, rather than selling them tickets directly.

Although the site did not officially launch until this past February, Kayak has aggressively forged relationships to extend its reach since early 2004. It signed a partnership agreement with America Online's AOL last November to power its Pinpoint Travel search engine, and has a distribution deal with USAToday.com, which carries Kayak's search engine in its travel section.

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Kayak expects to attract 10 million visitors a month by the end of 2005, according to a company statement.

Four of the largest search engines--Yahoo! Farechase, Kayak, Mobissimo, and Cheapflights--showed big spikes in traffic in the last six months, Hitwise reported earlier this month. The research firm found that Kayak visits were up more than 6,000 percent from October through April, while Farechase showed a 659 percent increase, Mobissimo also had a 350 percent gain, and Cheapflights was up 56 percent. Overall, the travel market share of visits to those four meta search engines picked up 304 percent in the last six months, while that of the top five online travel agencies--Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Yahoo! Travel, and CheapTickets--increased by just 11 percent.

Hitwise, however, qualified meta engines' growth with data illustrating that online travel agencies see far greater overall traffic than the meta engines. For the week ending May 7, the top five travel search engines accounted for just 3.14 percent of all visits to the Hitwise travel agencies category, compared to the top five travel agencies' sites, which accounted for 60.44 percent of all visits.

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