Yahoo! flies into crowded skies with travel site

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The Independent Online

Internet giant Yahoo! is planning a major push into the online travel market in the UK and Ireland in a move that could challenge travel sites Lastminute.com, e-bookers and Microsoft's Expedia.

The site is expected to launch in two months' time and will aggregate content and offers from publishers and travel agents.

It is unlikely to offer its own booking facility, although the company is looking at this as an option. Yahoo! will gauge the success of the site before deciding whether to roll it out across the European market.

Yahoo! is likely to partner with at least one existing travel player to launch the site. One analyst said that that Yahoo! may link with Travelocity, the travel website owned by Sabre.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo! confirmed that the company is currently developing a dedicated travel site but declined to comment further.

"This is still quite a long way off... we won't be offering a full service until the third or fourth quarter. A lot of details aren't tied down," she said.

Lastminute.com is currently the leading travel site in the UK, ahead of easyJet, Expedia and British Airways, according to figures from internet research company Jupiter MMXI.

"Yahoo! would be going up against some very hungry competitors," said Nick Jones, an analyst with Jupiter MMXI. "Travel is a very big sector online ­ most of the airlines are well established... Lastminute, Expedia and e-bookers are the granddaddies of selling online and are all pushing towards profitability."

Yahoo! is one of the best recognised brand names on the web, but it has been a tough year for the internet giant. In April the company posted an $11.5m loss for the first quarter and was forced to cut 12 per cent of its workforce following a downturn in dot-com advertising. Later that month it drafted in ex-Warner Brothers boss Terry Semel to replace Tim Koogle as its chairman and CEO.

Yahoo! is this week also expected to unveil a new music section on its portal. It will feature a range of news and reviews as well as an e-commerce section, which will allow visitors to shop for related products.

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