Expect a major expansion from Expedia in the coming months as it turns its attention to increasing revenue and the range of products from ancillaries.
At a global level the online travel agency is plotting a massive increase in the number of tour and activity services products available on the site.
The company will not share current product volume or revenues, either by type or country, but some figures close to the strategy were predicting a few months ago that tour and activity products globally and the Local Expert virtual concierge pilot in the US would hopefully generate around $1 billion in gross bookings a year by 2015.
Officially, Expedia sees the focus on its tour and activity products as part of a wider strategy to change the perception of the online travel agency as a flight, hotel, car hire and package holiday-focused service.
Andy Washington, the new managing director for the UK, says Expedia is no longer “just about palm trees and price points”, with a concerted effort being put in to positioning the brand as an “end-to-end travel service”.
The most significant way of doing this is to increase the range of valuable (both commercially and consumer proposition) in-destination services for purchase at the same time as the “commoditised” flight and hotel products on the site.
Expedia, of course, has been in this area for quite some time, but is clearly making a big play to tap further into the growth around tour and activity products being sold via the web.
Washington will not go as far to to say Expedia sees tours and activities as the next significant – and still relatively untapped at a mass-market level – frontier in online travel, but admits technology has played a major part in recent years in bringing suppliers closer to consumers for bookings.
But the growth of the larger activity OTAs such as Viator and Isango, alongside the myriad of startups entering the sector such as PocketVillage [TLabs], Flextrip [TLabs] and GetYourGuide [TLabs], illustrates that there is certainly now some degree of bounty to be had.
Still to be determined, Washington says, is exactly how the expansion will come about, whether its through contracting individually with suppliers (in the same way the company handles hotels) or partnering with a technology providers such as Rezgo or TourCMS to handle some elements of the connectivity required.
NB: Disclosure – bosses of Rezgo and TourCMS are both Tnooz Nodes.