Online growth won't slow in 2013, says Expedia

Online growth won't slow in 2013, says Expedia
By admin

Projections that the growth of the online travel market is set to slow in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) in 2013 are way off the mark, according to the local boss of Expedia.

ANZ's online travel market is forecast by PhocusWright to grow by 10% in 2013, a smaller rise than the 13% seen in 2011 as the market matures.

But Expedia managing director ANZ Georg Ruebensal flatly denied a slowdown is on the cards.

"I don't believe it. Some of the macroeconomic factors haven't really changed," he told Travel Today.

He referred to the stubbornly strong Australian dollar and attractive fares as a result of the competitive aviation landscape as ongoing incentives for international travel.

"People are still taking holidays," he said. "It's not a luxury, it's a necessity."

In addition, Ruebensal claimed Australian consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with booking travel online, evidenced by a diminishing volume of enquiries to the Expedia call centre.

"The share is declining, and that's not because we're promoting the call centre less," he said.

"But there will always be a group of customers that feel more comfortable doing it in a shop or doing it over the phone."

To capitalise on more "traditionalist" consumers, the firm has rolled out its Travel Agent Affiliate Program (TAAP) to the trade, reporting strong growth in 2012, with Asia Pacific accounting for approximately 40% of bookings and ANZ turning in highest engagement figures for the program worldwide.

The scheme offers agents a commission for bookings via its site with no special connection required.

"There was initially suspicion from travel agents, but I don't think there is anymore," Ruebensal said. "There is always room for bricks and mortar and we'll happily work with them."

Meanwhile, the firm has demonstrated its commitment to entering the mobile space with its 2010 acquisition of US-based mobile development company, Mobiata. The firm is responsible for FlightTrack, "one of the highest grossing apps in the app space", according to Ruebensal.

"That shows how much value we put on this," he said. "We don't have the experience so let's get someone who really knows what they're doing."

Since the app's global launch in March last year, it has recorded five million downloads.

Consumer use of the app has revealed a trend towards short, same day hotel bookings — the opposite of the type of booking made using a desktop.


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