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Interview: Kelkoo Travel’s Chris Nixon (16.06.2011)

September 25, 2011

Interview: Kelkoo Travel’s Chris Nixon (16.06.2011)

Chris Nixon was managing director at Travesupermarket.com for eight years, and after a short break has returned to the world of online travel…

How did you get involved with Kelkoo?
I was approached by Kelkoo’s new owners, private equity firm Jamplant. I regretted not taking Travelsupermarket to Europe, so this is now my chance. Kelkoo has offices in nine countries, and I can tap into great knowledge of each marketplace, of the history. European law is fascinating to me – and I like the challenge. I prefer to be the underdog, to come back. And I enjoy travel, it’s quite sexy, and I know price comparison. Kelkoo has made a commitment to travel, and made a promise. It’s very exciting.

Why is Kelkoo relaunching its travel website?
Before Jamplant bought the website in 2008 off Yahoo, it was mainly a shopping website. If you were just buying a TV, then great, you know the model, and you can find the TV. Travel back then was just a category; there was no grouping, reviews, or inspiration. Another problem was the website’s structure and SEO. The content was light, and there was not much supporting information. It was also using some of the shopping site’s components. New owner Jamplant has spent the past 18 months restructuring the Kelkoo website, and thought that the travel side represented too small a volume.

What plans do you have for the new Kelkoo Travel?
Up to £2m has been spent on development, and I want to make Kelkoo be seen as a travel destination website – and taken seriously. The advantage already is that the brand is an “empty” brand. It’s neutral – there’s no negativity. But it is trusted. The relaunch gives us the chance to reposition the brand in the marketplace. We’re doing lots of optimisation, rebuilding the whole site. The beta launch, for hotels, will be live from July 21. We’ll test a country at a time. There’s a marketing team in place, and TV ads planned for Italy and Spain, as they are cheaper to do compared with the UK.

How do you intend to make the website stand out from the crowd?
Speed is one area. At the moment, search results come back in 30 seconds to two minutes. I want to get that down to under 30 seconds, returning results from 30 to 40 providers. There’s the ability to search for hotels located next to each other. We’re also in talks with TripAdvisor, as I want to integrate reviews – it’s the brand that most people recognise. We will also add Google Maps and Google Places, and users can log in via Facebook. Finally, we are truly European. Our website will exist in nine different languages.

How do online travel agents fit into the comparison website equation?
Price comparison sites have a miniscule share of the travel market in the UK, and the more comparison sites there are the better for travel. We want to help drive business direct, as we all rely on Google far too much. So we are another form of distribution. If you’re an OTA, it’s about diversifying. So there will be an active drive to get more OTAs onboard, and to help we have just recruited sales people. We are looking for niche players, and smaller agencies. Plus we will build up our email database, and maybe add sponsored links from agents. We are also looking at luxury for the future. It’s a partnership thing.

What do you make of the tie-up between the Groupon deals site and Expedia in the US?
Groupon is creating more awareness, making people want to travel. I’m not sure how much overlap there is with the UK, but we’ll be talking to them.

What’s your golden rule in business?
If you can’t recommend your own website to your friends…

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