Russian search engine Yandex has launched a service enabling consumers to search for holiday packages from about 14 tour operators. Yandex.Travel draws the domestic and outbound package content from an API from online agency Level Travel but direct contracts with operators are also likely to become part of the mix. According to Vladimir Gorovoy, who heads up Yandex.Travel, the search engine has been thinking about a travel element for three years but postponed it because of other priorities.
Article by Linda Fox - Read original here
It is reviving the concept now as it seems Russians continue to prefer tours – in February alone, Russians searched for package holidays 3.5 million times according to Yandex. Further rationale for launching the service now is the maturing of the industry in terms of being able to aggregate travel content and the realisation that travel is moving steadily online in Russia. Yandex adds that the current economic climate is making for a price sensitive market and that packages holidays often work out cheaper through bulk buying. Other factors are also coming into play such as the preference for packages over independently booked trips because of language barriers and the fact that travellers get help with the paperwork and visa requirements by buying a package. The service also enables users to compare package prices with booking air and hotel components individually. Further functionality includes map search for nearby hotels, ‘smart reviews’ that highlight the important information for travellers based on Yandex’s algorithm and a hotels rating system. The service also offers a degree of personalisation by suggesting tours based on destinations users have been searching for in recent weeks. Booking is via the online travel agency although the tour operators are named enabling travellers to contact them by phone or visit in person with face-to-face contact continuing to be popular in the country. Recent figures show domestic travel has increased significantly in Russia in recent months – 30% according to the Russian Federal Agency for tourism and a decline of 25% for outbound travel in May noted by the Association of Russian tour operators. Figures from marketing intelligence firm ForwardKeys show a 28.5% drop in outbound travel from the destination in February. However, according to Yandex with the value of the Ruble beginning to increase, there has already been more interest in outbound packages. Yandex has had a flight search box for a number of years with the functionality displayedabove organic search results for terms such as ‘airline tickets.’ A separate service for airline tickets has also been available for some time.