‘Meta’ means beyond or after, and now two of the travel industry’s major meta-search services will merge in a $196-million deal that combines powerful Internet selling sites. The two-year-old Kayak.com is buying sidestep.com. in a deal that was expected to close Friday. These two sites search hundred of individual airline, hotel, and car-rental sites to allow consumer comparison shopping. Much like this real-life kayak, the wesbite prided itself on its transparency. When meta-search emerged at the turn of the century, some observers predicted that this type of aggregation of aggregators would shake the on-line world; it hasn’t, and the meta-search share of the on-line travel market has stayed at the same level of about 15% for the last few years.
Still, the transaction would make Kayak.com and its related sites the fifth largest on-line travel brand; Kayak says the combination will have more monthly unique visitors than Priceline, than every airline except Southwest, and every hotel and rental car brand, based on Media Matrix Digital Calculator reports for November. Kayak.com said it intends to maintain both the SideStep.com and Kayak.com brands separately. The funding will also support an aggressive international expansion, Kayak chief executive Steve Hafner said in a statement. It will compete with an aggressive European expansion recently set by Expedia, the travel booking service.