The US Online Travel & Tourism Industry: Who Are The Top Players in Search?

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Rapidly changing, highly competitive, filled by tremendous amounts of newcomers emerging as we speak – this is how the US Online Travel & Tourism Industry can be generally described. Despite all the challenges, there are some players who successfully manage to reach and remain in top positions in the biggest search engine results. Following, we will explore who they are and which are the most competitive categories in which their domains “fight” to dominate.

The Top 5 Domains in the Travel & Tourism Industry

The following infographic illustrates the aggregated visibility of the current top 5 competitors in the US Travel & Tourism Industry over the past 6 weeks, including both Organic and Paid visibility:

 Top Players in US Travel & Tourism Industry - Infographic

Image credit:

The top players receive the following percentages of aggregated visibility, respectively: – 39.2%; – 18.9%; – 16.1%; – 15.5%; and – 10.3%. Data was extracted on 3/12/2013.

Expedia and Kayak lead the charts

It doesn’t take much to observe that and are direct competitors in the “fight” for visibility, as a logical result of the similar nature of their business. Expedia and Kayak are both among the world’s largest online travel agencies with a solid presence across the globe via local websites. The travel companies work as aggregators of a large range of flight & hotel deals, car rentals, vacation destinations and cruises. Additionally, Expedia and Kayak provide their customers with ideas, deals and information through a mobile app and have a solid presence in social media.

This calls for a battle! Let’s see what happens if we place the two domains in a direct “fight”, and get a more detailed overview of the Categories in which they are direct rivals. Here is an extraction of the results, specifically of the US Market:

HooshBattle between and

Screenshot taken 2/12/2013 of

The screenshot represents the battle between Expedia and Kayak, only partially. The first table contains the ranking of, and the second of The battle was conducted on 2/12/2013.

Two conclusions come to mind after a first glimpse:

  • Expedia is a Market Leader in a greater number of Categories (11 Total) within the Travel & Tourism Industry, however both domains rank #1 in an equal amount of Categories.
  • “Airline Tickets” is the Category in which Expedia and Kayak are direct competitors for Visibility.

Further Insights: Paid vs. Organic Search Strategy

Because, as mentioned before, Airline Tickets was the category in which the two domains are direct competitors, we decided to compare how their visibility is spread among Organic and Paid. Here comes the interesting part:

You probably think that the top players in an extremely competitive Category, such as Airline Tickets, often have to spend significant resources on AdWords, PPC, etc. in order to “buy” their way to the top. On the contrary, both Expedia and Kayak have spent little ( to zero ( in paid visibility on the top generic keywords that we track for the Industry for the last 6 weeks:

Paid Search Graph: vs.

Screenshot taken 12/12/2013 of

The real rivalry between Expedia and Kayak in the Airline Tickets Category can be easily observed in their organic results:

Organic Search: vs.

Screenshot taken 12/12/2013 of

To summarize, the analysis of two top players in the US Online Travel & Tourism Industry points out a key takeaway for marketers struggling to achieve better visibility with their Search Marketing efforts: spending resources on Ads to gain positions in paid visibility does not necessarily guarantee leading positions in the biggest search engine results. Players like Expedia and Kayak, with their impressively strong organic positions, are proof of that.

Smilena Spasova

Smilena Spasova

Marketing Assistant at Hoosh Technology
Smilena likes to call herself a "digital enthusiast", fascinated by the power and the potential of online media for businesses. She sees the world as... Read Full Bio
Smilena Spasova
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  • James Halloran

    That’s a shame. Kayak finds the cheapest deal possible, and it’s not always the safest place to stay or travel. They don’t deserve those rankings. But from your research, I see why they get them…

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephen

    This analysis does not paint a true picture of the travel industry visibility. Looking at Hoosh products, they appear to measure visibility based an a handful of top keywords. In the travel space especially, this is extremely misleading.

    The travel spaces has one of the deepest keyword universes out there. This is because so many travelers tend to serach by destination: “orlando vactions”, “disney world resorts”, “best western omaha”, etc.

    This analysis measures only takes into account the “head” terms of the travel industry. I would estimate that to be less than 1% of travel related searches performed.

    This tends to be especially misleading in travel for another reason: Different players target the “fat middle” and “long tail” keywords than target the “head” terms.

    A true “search visibility” into the travel industry would have to include millions of phrases. This analysis is is useless and wrong.

    • Jacob

      Hi Stephen
      Of course you are right in terms of the complexity and diversity of the travel industry. There are many keywords! And no doubt that a more complex analysis can be carried out. This analysis does not claim to be the one and only and I am not sure about how misleading it actually is in terms of Defining Who are the big players in the US market? This is just one way of looking at the market.

      Just like normal market research, you chose a sample of the population for the analysis, you do not chose to ask everybody to find an answer. We could look at keywords only related to Disney as you mention and then we get a picture of that specific segment of the Travel Industry. Doing this would not require us to look at 250 keywords related to Disney but maybe just the top 20-30 keywords. These keywords tell a lot about the division of the market shares. If you dominate visibility on the big keywords there is a good chance that you dominate the market.

      Included in this analysis are the top top used keywords in the US travel market. Most queries. High competition. So we are not trying to say anything about cottage rental in Florida or fishing trips to Canada. We could do this of course or we could do one targeting the Fat Middle or the Long Tail. This specific analysis is looking at the market from the Head terms.