One of the main aims of Expertly.co.uk is to give you an expert insight into areas of business, tech and marketing. One way that this will be done is via interviews with people who are experts in their respective areas. Our first interview is with Martino Matijevic the CEO of WhichBudget.com which is a flight price search engine, having run the website for over 10 years we ask him about his company, the travel industry and more. If you enjoy this interview check back for more in the near future and if you want to be interviewed yourself then get in touch.
Q. Hi Martino, can you tell us a little about you? (where you’re from, hobbies, etc)
I describe myself as Croatian by origin, British by nationality and French in heart. Originally from Croatia, I was educated in Britain and have started my career there. But in 2003 I decided to pack everything and move to France. Today, I live in Mougins (near Cannes), enjoying the great weather, barbecue with friends, going to the gym and salsa dancing.
Q. Can you tell us about your company and what you do?
I started www.WhichBudget.com back in 2002 as a personal website. Out of necessity (read: no money) I became an expert in finding which budget airline flies where. Being a web developer, I have put my knowledge on a website to share with friends and it gradually grew into one of the leading global flight search engines. WhichBudget searches flight prices directly from airlines and online travel agents but also includes routes by airlines not offering prices online, hence it is more complete than some of our bigger competitors. My job as CEO is to decide on corporate strategy and coordinate the work between our IT guys, marketing team and customer relations managers.
Q. For those looking to go into the travel market can you offer any tips you wish you’d known before you went into it?
Travel is a hugely segmented and complex market. Just the other day I was talking to someone who wanted to start an accommodation database website. He was amased when I gave him a list of competitors, from hotel databases, to hostels, private rooms, villas, castles, cottages, botels, couchsurfing, etc. to setting up a tent in someone’s garden. My best advice would be to concentrate on a niche market and let your USP be focused on user experience – e.g. if you are going to set up an accommodation database, start off by reviewing camping sites in Mallorca.
Q. As many people know relying on Google for all your traffic is a risky business, do you try and spread the risk of your traffic sources and how do you do this?
Today, search traffic represents about 40% of total. 15% is direct traffic and the rest (45%) is referral traffic. Large part of the referrals are via affiliate widgets on our sister site, www.TheTravelMagazine.net, which starts of by creating desire and then refers to WhichBudget for search. The rest of referals come primarily from social sources: between WhichBudget and TheTravelMagazine, we have over 11000 Facebook fans and over 560000 Twitter followers.
Q. What have been your highest and lowest points in business with WhichBudget?
The lowest point has to be when we were hit by Google Panda update and have lost 60% of our traffic. It was panic in the office! We are not SEO specialists and this was a huge blow to our morale.
The highest point has to be the moment I decided to quit my job as IT Consultant for Orange and concentrate on WhichBudget full-time. It was a mix of excitement and uncertainty but it was the right decision at the time and it helped WhichBudget grow from a personal website to an international search engine.
Q. If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what job do you think you’d be doing now and why?
I’d be a chéf, as I love the creative side of cooking on the one hand and seeing others enjoy eating on the other hand.
Q. One word to describe yourself, what would it be?
Q. Last thing you bought?
Opera tickets for Carmen at Royal Albert Hall
Q. Favourite holiday destination?
Q. Random fact about you please.
I was once a contestant on Blind Date.
Q. Finally, do you see Google getting more involved in the travel industry such as comparing prices of hotels themselves and featuring in position 1 as a threat to your business?
Yes, definitely! Google is already comparing prices of hotels and flights, adding customer reviews (Zagat) and inspirational ideas (Frommer’s) and I can only see them integrating their own products even further in the search process, cutting the rest of us out (unless we bid more to appear in Sponsored Results). But I see Facebook as an even bigger threat. When you are considering going on a trip to Barcelona, who do you ask for advice first: Google or a friend who recently came back from Barcelona? With their Graph Search, we are starting to see the power of social networking when it comes to search.