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Wave of travel start-ups challenges tourism

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Broad shift in market emphasis from retailers to search

As the number of tourists worldwide hits one billion, which it did last year, experts such as author Elizabeth Becker say the travel and tourism industry is set to become the biggest business sector in the world.

Technology appears to be replacing guidebooks and travel agents, and a new wave of start-ups is emerging to offer alternatives built around social media and internet search.

Expedia recently led a $30 million funding round for the California-based company Room 77. “It’s still too hard for consumers to find a place to stay,” Drew Patterson, Room 77’s CEO, says.

Room 77 offer travellers more details about rooms before booking, including floor plans and views. The site later evolved into a search engine that brings in content from more established sites like TripAdvisor, Hotels.com and Priceline, so that users only have to go to one site for complete hotel data.

For this reason, experts say that older online retailers like Hotels.com are losing their edge with consumers.

“You’re seeing this very broad shift in the market from retailers to search, because a search engine gives consumers a better answer,” Patterson said. “We’ve got an engineering team full of ex-Googlers.”

San Jose Mercury News

[pictured: Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong]

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