August 26, 2013 9:31 am

Skyscanner to double workforce

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Gareth Williams©Gary Doak

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner chief executive

Flight comparison website Skyscanner is to double its workforce to 500 staff over the next year, a move that underscores the high-flying Edinburgh-based company’s ambitions in a global travel search sector also contested by Google and Priceline of the US.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Gareth Williams, Skyscanner chief executive and co-founder, said the dramatically accelerated expansion came amid fast-growing demand for online search for flights, hotels and car hire.

Skyscanner reported revenues of £33.5m in 2012, up 65 per cent on the year before, and Mr Williams said sales were set for rapid further expansion in 2013.

“We will certainly double our revenues,” he said, adding that such rapid growth was likely to be maintained for at least the next “two or three years”.

The expansion, which will be funded entirely out of cash flow and operating profits, will cement Skyscanner’s status as the leading posterchild for Scotland’s emerging online sector. The company had already added more than 70 new staff since the start of 2013 to just over 250 now.

More than half of the further 250 or so new jobs are expected to be located at Skyscanner’s Edinburgh headquarters and in Scotland’s western city of Glasgow.

The new positions will also include staff at Skyscanner’s planned office in Miami, its first in the US, from which it will “take on” Google and Priceline in their home markets.

Mr Williams said Skyscanner was already bigger outside the US than rival flight search service Kayak – which was acquired by online travel booking service Priceline for $1.8bn in November last year – and “not far behind them globally”.

Skyscanner also competes in travel search with Google, which bought flight-pricing software company ITA for $700m in 2010.

Around 40 per cent of the new jobs are expected to be in marketing as Skyscanner steps up efforts to build awareness among consumers, including possible advertising in traditional media – a new departure for a company that has historically concentrated on digital promotion.

“It’s an open question, which channels we’ll use in the future, but we will be doing integrated marketing plans in a number of different markets round the world,” Mr Williams said. “Offline will be a component of what we do.”

A similar proportion of new hires will be for software engineering, as Skyscanner seeks to further improve its search results and to adapt its services to a growing range of consumer digital devices.

About one-third of Skyscanner’s users already access it from a mobile device and its mobile applications have been downloaded more than 25m times. 

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