Skyscanner aims to be world’s top search site

Shane Corstorphine: 'We have Kayak and Qunar in our sights'. Picture: Chris Watt/Visual Media
Shane Corstorphine: 'We have Kayak and Qunar in our sights'. Picture: Chris Watt/Visual Media
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SKYSCANNER is on track to become the world’s biggest travel search engine after doubling its revenue and profits and announcing it is hiring a further 100 people.

The Edinburgh-based company expects to top the league of search sites within 18 months after a year of rapid growth and acquisitions.

Shane Corstorphine, the firm’s chief financial officer, said yesterday it has market leaders Kayak and Qunar in its sights as the former earns 80 per cent of its revenues within the US while Qunar depends wholly on the Chinese market. Skyscanner’s market is more widely spread with only 20 per cent of its traffic in the UK.

“We want to be No.1 and we are growing faster than both,” said Corstorphine.

Skyscanner saw annual income to the end of December rise by 96 per cent to £65.8 million and earnings before income, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) double to £24.1m. Visitor numbers and mobile app downloads also doubled

This is the fastest revenue growth that Skyscanner has seen in three years and was driven in large part by the company’s mobile strategy and significant growth in global markets. Monthly unique visitors from around the world have more than doubled to 25 million.

The firm had aimed to build its workforce to 500 but its growth rate has been such that the figure has been raised to 600.

It broadened from a flight comparison site into a general travel search engine by acquiring Barcelona-based hotel search company Fogg. This, together with Skyscanner’s car rental services, helped move it into the wider search engine sector.

Secondary investment by US-based Sequoia Capital in October, which valued Skyscanner at $800 (£500m), gives the company access to a deeper pool of expertise. The firm has made a rapid entry into the Americas, including the Canadian, Latin American and US markets. Last year saw a 119 per cent year-on-year increase in unique monthly visitors in the region.

Skyscanner opened a Miami hub for the Americas, established new offices in Glasgow and Barcelona and expanded in Edinburgh, Beijing and Singapore. Margaret Rice-Jones was appointed chairman and Sir Michael Moritz, chairman of Sequoia Capital, joined the board.

The firm recorded 30 million downloads of its flight mobile app which it considered central to last year’s growth. Further mobile developments are planned across Skyscanner’s product range this year.

The Far East continued to be a strong driver of growth over the past 12 months, with a 141 per cent increase in monthly visitors. In the more established European markets, unique monthly visitors increased by an average of 64 per cent.

Corstorphine said: “This last year has proven to be our most successful to date and underlines the importance of offering a truly global travel search tool to travellers around the world. We’ve built a platform to continue to support rapid growth over the coming years and we’re now investing heavily.

“Our growth has been predominantly driven by our flight search on both web and mobile platforms. With an increasing number of consumers booking their travel on the go, mobile will remain a key part of our strategy over the next 12 months and beyond.”

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “Our focus so far has largely been around building the best global flight search site and we are now bringing the same technical innovation and global focus as we expand across other areas of their travel journey.”