Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN) is to explore ways of establishing ties with technology firms behind more traditional offline agencies following the creation of sub- divisions within travel.
The internal structural change in January saw EAN establish divisions for airlines under director Chris Wallis, OTAs under Orazio Lambiase, and corporate travel TMCs under David Lewis.
Wallis said this was recognition of the fact that players in each of the sub categories could be clearly defined and each required specialist focus to meet their specific requirements.
“By having specialists we will do a better job of meeting the needs of our customers,” he said.
“It’s about defining strategy and product solutions and working the product management team to develop existing accounts and also support the sales team in how to take the product to market.”
Lewis said: “Our product is hotel product. We are not fundamentally going to change that but the way our customers will access that may well alter.
“The needs of the corporate traveller are very different from the leisure partnership. We are looking to become far more specialised in our roles.
“In corporate you may have deep ingrained reliance on GDS channels. We are not trying to change what we are but we have got to make it easier for our customers to use us.”
The three directors said the new divisions were addressing sectors with different key proprieties:
- For corporate travel it is to bring some of the 70% of unmanaged business travel into the fold by making sure the hotels people are booking anyway are available
- For airlines is it to optimise the value of the travel wallet airline sites command by ensuring it is easier for them to retain the customer
- For OTAs it is to drive up customer acquisition through offering a diverse range of product and increasing customer retention
Lambiase said EAN will be able to provide its affiliate partners with consultancy and advice about the kind of activity or product that generates the best results for the target market.
One area EAN is looking to develop is a much greater degree of granular information so that it can make much more data-driven recommendations about what hotel product to take from Expedia.
Lambiase added another area EAN is seeing opportunities in is offline agents. “We have tended to see the O in OTA as being online; what we are being now is the O means offline.
“We are starting to explore that more and more. We either see it as being travel agent groups, independent travel agents or companies that operate call centres.
“The OTA segment is currently pretty much just online travel agents.”
Lewis said this means EAN will be looking to align itself to existing technology companies to make sure these agents can continue to use their familiar systems but access Expedia’s content.
“As offline becomes far more advanced in terms of systems and solutions there are simple ways to plug in to those systems.
“There are going to be some technology companies we are going to align ourselves with to make sure that our customers can still use the same booking process they have to day but benefit from having our content in there as well.”
Lambiase said the idea was that the content EAN can provide support the web presence by driving more traffic whether or not that firm ends up transacting online or via an offline channel.
Wallis said: “There is product we have that they (EAN customers) may not be able to get elsewhere and where they do get it they may have to integrate with several bed banks.
“We have particular strength in the 0 to 60 day booking window because of the way we contract, in free sale rather than taking risk which is the bed bank model.
“They tend to run out of availability as they approach departure date. The other thing we have is package rates. Hotels give us exclusive rate which can only be used for packages.”
Wallis added that the quality of EAN’s hotels API gives it a advantage over other suppliers ensuring speed which he was said was the most important factor in terms of conversions.