Skyscanner weathers recession and continues to expand

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Recession has not curbed growth at Skyscanner, an Edinburgh-based online travel research company launched eight years ago.

Indeed, the company, which is profitable, has enjoyed a surge of business and expects revenue of £9m ($15m) in the year to next May, compared with £3.5m in the previous 12 months. It now employs 58 people, 10 based in Poland.

Gareth Williams, chief executive, said the company was benefiting because leisure and business customers were more cost-conscious in the downturn.

“There is still a huge appetite for travel but people are looking to do it more economically,” he said.

Mr Williams started the business with Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes, also IT professionals, because they thought that finding the cheapest or most convenient flight online was needlessly complicated.

Skyscanner provides instant online comparison on flight prices for more than 670,000 routes on more than 600 airlines. It plans to become the first flight search engine to cover every scheduled flight, including budget and chartered airlines as well as large carriers. Users of the website can browse without having to enter specific dates or even destinations.

Because the company was launched after the dotcom bubble burst, its founders financed the start-up themselves and did not seek outside investment.

But two years ago, the company received a £2.5m investment from Scottish Equity Partners and it has used these funds to offer car hire, hotel and holiday price comparisons.

Mr Williams said that the company had no immediate need to raise further funds, nor had it any fixed plans regarding its future, although he would not rule out flotation “in a few years’ time”.

Skyscanner, which offers flight searches in 20 languages and 64 currencies, now receives about two-thirds of its business from outside the UK.

Mr Williams said that there was considerable scope for consolidation in the industry – particularly in Europe. The company is also keen to increase its activities in North America, which currently accounts for only 5 per cent of turnover.

Skyscanner currently has more than 7m visits to its site each month, but has so far relied on marketing through online channels, word of mouth and press relations. But in January it will start advertising on television in Scotland.

Frank Skivington, the company’s commercial vice-president, said: “Skyscanner has been growing strongly, with year-on-year growth of over 80 per cent, but now we are ramping that up even more and pushing hard to create a global travel brand.

“The Scottish TV trial is only the first step in the process,” he said. “Ultimately we hope that advertising will be a key element in our UK and international marketing programmes.”

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