Skyscanner, who? I asked myself.
I am not (yet) one of those junkies who search and make all their travel arrangements online. Why bother when I have hundreds of travel agents who can physically do that for me? I am spoilt and therefore willing to pay travel agents extra for their service. It's bothersome trawling the different airline and hotel booking sites, having to enter countless of data fields, just for cheap tickets, which has taken hours of my precious time.
So when I recently agreed to be involved with the opening of Skyscanner's regional HQ, to my pleasant surprise I learnt that it is a global travel search site with impressive growth numbers - and ambitions far beyond my own travel plans.
Impressive enough to make the headlines of various media including eTravel Blackboard, TTG Asia, eGlobal and Travel Weekly, who reported on Skyscanner's 400% annual growth in Asia and expansion of its Singapore office.
Not bad for a relative "newcomer" to Asia, if you don't count the fact that Skyscanner has been no. 1 in Europe and no. 3 worldwide as far as travel search sites go.
By no means mistake Skyscanner for an online travel booking portal, which IT IS NOT. The site works by providing instant online comparisons for millions of flights plus hotels, car hire and holidays. You can do your search in 30 languages and download its mobile app. Skyscanner has also tied up with Baidu, China's version of Google, to make your search experience easier. Once you have found your preferred flight/hotel deal, your search brings you directly to the airline/hotel site. You deal directly with and pay the airline and hotel of your choice.
Out of obligation to Skyscanner (who was paying my retainer fee), I braced and prepared myself for the anticipated long-drawn, time-consuming, teeth-gnawing experience of going online for a flight comparison. To cut a long story short, it wasn't as painful as my last experience (for the record, it wasn't with Skyscanner)!
At least with Skyscanner, I don't have to search the different airline/hotel sites. I'm happy to give the thumbs up to other travel sites too. Apart from Skyscanner for flight price comparisons, I like TripAdvisor for its hotel reviews and hotels.com for obvious reasons. For ethical reasons, I shall not talk about my not-as-pleasant experience with competitive sites.
Until my fateful introduction to Skyscanner, my online travel search experience to date has been rather limited. I have little patience, if any. I need to speak to someone and be personally assured I've made the best deal. I need to see a face and hear a voice. I like knowing my request for a special meal or seat has been noted by a human being whom I can show my appreciation to, or yell at if things go awry. I like knowing that there is a person I can refer to, if I have questions that are nowhere listed on the search sites.
In short, I prefer doing business with a human being, not through some distant search site, no matter how well it runs. (Skyscanner, if you're reading this: I need time to adjust, although you are starting to have a positive influence on me). I know there are many like me, just as there are those who are avowed veteran e-travel planners and soldiers.
As for me, I'll soldier on and mix it all up for my next vacation homework. I will still go online to read the travel reviews. Now that I have "met" Skyscanner, I'm looking forward to a repeat experience with my newfound friend.
Dear Travel Agent, I will still see you. I need to. Although I fear I'm slowly but surely turning into an e-travel junkie.