Thomas Cook announces new city break and hotel-only offering with Expedia Group

Thomas Cook, the UK-based holiday company, has recently launched a new city break and hotel-only offering in the UK as part of its strategic alliance with Expedia Group.

Under the new plan, Thomas Cook will offer a wider range of holiday options at a lower cost of production using Expedia’s hotel supply. The new city-break and hotel-only areas on Thomas Cook’s website use Expedia Group’s technology to deliver hotel content and bookings, and increase the number of hotels available for customers to more than 100,000. Expedia’s advanced technology will help to increase booking on Thomas Cook’s own websites and expand its online business. In the year to date, Thomas Cook UK has increased online sales by 37 percent.

Peter Fankhauser, Chief Executive of Thomas Cook Group, said: ‘The launch of the Expedia Group alliance is an important step forward in our strategy for profitable growth. Plugging in the Expedia Group technology will transform our city break and hotel-only business, offering more choice for our customers and unlocking efficiencies across our organisation. The collaborative approach we’re taking to improve our complementary business for customers is already showing real benefits, and we look forward to harnessing the growth potential that Expedia Group brings.’

Ariane Gorin, President, Expedia Partner Solutions, said: ‘We are happy to team up with Thomas Cook to bring their customers a broader travel selection, aligning perfectly with our strategy to power industry partners. Expedia Group’s platform technology provides partners with optimized tools to help travellers search from the widest range of options when booking their holidays.’

The new city break and hotel-only bookings is part of Thomas Cook’s ‘complementary’ hotel business, offering customers a wide range of hotels options for second holidays and short breaks. This is in addition to Thomas Cook’s core holiday offering that focuses on its own brand hotels and selected partner hotels in sun and beach destinations.

This new scheme follows the launch of Thomas Cook’s hotel sourcing partnership with Webjet Limited in summer 2017. The Webjet partnership resulted in a 51-per-cent increase in overall bedbank bookings in the first half of 2018, Thomas Cook said.

New technology to transform holiday bookings

Holidays and holiday booking process will be fully transformed by the use of immersive virtual and augmented reality technologies, according to a report by Expedia.

In its latest The Holiday of the Future report, Expedia looks at how technology could shape how travellers plan, enjoy and return from holiday in the future. From holiday packages that are designed around social media activity to a virtual concierge, the report states that customers will increasingly be able to ‘try before they buy’.

According to the report, with the availability of high-end devices such as Oculus Rift, along with more affordable setups, immersive experiences could potentially be used to captivate prospective travellers.

Rachael Power from Virtual Reality News, who contributed to the research, said: ‘Virtual reality has the potential to radically change travel. People can ‘try before they buy’ by visiting locations in VR, from the UAE to the Irish Wild Atlantic Way.

‘It also shakes things up for those who are immobile or on smaller budgets; the view from Machu Picchu is now simply the cost of a Google Cardboard headset away.’

A recent traveller report created by Expedia found that 42 percent of Millennials in the UK agree that holiday photos posted by social media contacts influence their choice of destination. The report also explains that 60 percent of the same audience describe experiencing the authentic culture of a country as the most important factor in travelling. The commercial use of VR in the future would allow travellers to have a deeper understanding of what a destination ‘feels’ like, before committing to booking a flight.

Expedia also envisages that in future content shared on social media will evolve from the standard snapshot into rich-media experiences. ‘Virtual reality and 360 degree film technology will begin to reach the masses once brands invest in content for this medium,’ the report said.

Expedia names world’s 25 top shopping destinations

Expedia, a US-based on-line travel company, has compiled a list of the world’s top 25 travel destinations for shopping.

With this festive period being the busiest time of the year for the world’s retailers, the company has based its league table on data that includes blogger recommendations, visitor numbers, value for money and friendliness.

London achieved fourth place for the UK, trailing behind New York in first place, Berlin that took second and Los Angeles in third. None of these will come as a great surprise, but other shopping destinations on the list were less predictable.

Examples of these include Sao Paulo in Brazil, Seoul in South Korea, Melbourne in Australia and Romania’s capital Bucharest that just made the list at number 25. Scotland also had a showing, with Edinburgh taking twentieth spot. Dubai with its glitzy, top end shops for the well-off came fourteenth, while Marrakech’s more affordable markets and souks earned it nineteenth place. Africa’s other representative on the list was Cape Town, achieving twenty-third place. The USA had one other representative in addition to its two in the top four, with San Francisco in thirteenth place.

The complete list reads, 1, New York, 2, Berlin, 3, Los Angeles, 4, London, 5, Kuala Lumpur, 6, Tokyo, 7, Singapore, 8, Istanbul, 9, Paris, 10, Madrid, 11, Sao Paulo, 12, Bangkok, 13, San Francisco, 14, Dubai, 15, Milan, 16, Rome, 17, Hong Kong, 18, Seoul, 19, Marrakech, 20, Edinburgh, 21, Melbourne, 22, Vienna, 23, Cape Town, 24, Amsterdam and 25, Bucharest.

Expedia introduces three new features

Online travel company, Expedia.com, has introduced three new features designed to help customers through the travel planning process: Flight Recommendations, Scratchpad and Itinerary Sharing.

The Flight Recommendations feature analyses more than three billion flight searches performed on Expedia.com and offers insights to real-time customer search queries, suggesting convenient or cost-effective alternative airports, dates or time of travel. These options and fares are presented to the customer in a box above the standard search results.

An online travel industry first, the feature reveals potential savings from alternative searches. The Flight Recommendations feature is available today for desktop customers in the US, with global roll-out expected in 2014.

The Scratchpad feature neatly stores and organises a customer’s search queries for easy retrieval. According to an Expedia.com survey, customers will search for a flight online an average of 48 times before booking a trip. Scratchpad ensures that whenever they return, they have access to previous searches. Clicking on the Scratchpad button on the Expedia.com homepage expands the search history and refreshes the data, showing the latest prices and inventory.

The Scratchpad feature claims to save travellers time during research, and saves money by sending customised emails to them when prices change, allowing them to make smart, informed travel decisions.

Itinerary Sharing allows users to share their live itineraries with their co-workers, friends and/or family. Friends can have access to the same notifications as the traveller, making it easier to track flight departures, arrivals, and delays.

‘Customers spend too much time hunting and pecking for the right deal. For any given search, there are thousands of ways they can search for a particular trip. Each search can produce billions of combinations,’ said John Kim, senior vice president of Global Products, Brand Expedia.

‘Flight Recommendations utilises our flight booking data to help travellers find the best flight at the best price available. Scratchpad makes it easy for travellers to log all their options. We eliminated the hassle of tracking. Scratchpad remembers searches so customers don’t have to. Itinerary sharing makes it easy for customers to share their live data with others. We are making travel easier.’

Scratchpad and Flight Recommendations are both powered by the underlying innovation in Expedia.com’s ‘Travel Graph,’ which analyses booking data to provide more intelligent search results for consumers. The updated Expedia.com app is available for download at the Google Play and Apple App Store.

Expedia to launch package holidays

Expedia, an Internet-based travel website company with its head office in Bellevue, Washington USA, and operating nearly 30 localised sites in other countries including the UK, is preparing to sell package holidays.

While speaking at the recent World Tourism Forum in Lucerne, Switzerland, the company’s senior vice president for global market management, Cyril Ranque, said, ‘There is a huge opportunity in offering packages to customers. We do dynamic packages, selling the old way: select a flight, select a hotel, select transfers, activities and you’re set. But there is much more potential in filtering the needs of the consumer – by price, length of stay, destination, theme, size of group. There is a lot of opportunity to present the right product.

‘Packages are the next big area. We are going to invest a lot of money. To optimise all revenue margins we need to be in all ‘buckets’. But being strong in the main bucket – the mass market – is what is most important.’

Expedia operates its travel sites in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, UK, and the USA. Through the sites visitors can book airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rental and cruises. Expedia’s coverage means that it is possibly the world’s largest on-line travel agency, with a turnover of £4 billion last year.

Ranque insisted that any changes that Expedia makes to its operation and offerings would be carried out gradually in order to avoid disruption to the company’s existing services and to maintain customer goodwill.

OFT Brings Malpractice Allegations against Booking.com, Expedia and Intercontinental Hotels Group

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), a UK government department, has alleged that three of UK’s biggest travel names, Booking.com, Expedia, and InterContinental Hotels Group, have infringed on competition law by restricting the online booking of hotel rooms.

The OFT has issued a Statement of Objections charging Booking.com and Expedia for breaking the law by entering into an agreement with IHG to offer discounted prices of room-only accommodation.

The agency, which had conducted an investigation in September 2010 following a complaint by a small online travel company, feels that such agreements are anti-competition, restrict the entry and expansion of smaller travel agents selling discounted accommodation to customers, and hence break the Competition Act of 1998.

The UK’s Competition Act of 1998 provides a guideline for the recognition and control of restrictive business practices, when utilised by a dominant market leader to control competition.

Clive Maxwell, the OFT chief executive officer, said, ‘We want people to benefit fully from being able to shop around online and get a better deal from discounters that are prepared to share their commission with customers.

The OFT’s provisional view is that Booking.com, Expedia and InterContinental Hotels Group have infringed competition law. However, these are the OFT’s provisional findings only. All parties will now have a full opportunity to respond to our Statement of Objections before we decide whether competition law has in fact been infringed.’

IHG owns around nine hotel brands in round 100 countries, including InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, as well as two new brands, EVEN Hotels and HUALUXE Hotels & Resorts.

 

Expedia Releases Flip Flop Report 2012 on Beach Holidays

Expedia, a US-based online travel company, has announced its 2012 Flip Flop Report, which provides results of a survey of beach vacations that was conducted with more than 8,000 participants across the globe.

The survey indicated that beach vacations continue to remain popular with holiday enthusiasts, with around 52 percent of the respondents planning on taking a beach holiday in the next 12 months. The respondents, from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, answered that on average they take about 7.7 days of beach holiday in a single trip.

However, Koreans, Japanese and Singaporeans seem to prefer a beach weekend rather than extended stays, and Argentineans spend an average of 11 days at a time at beach destinations. Also, while beach lovers in the US tend to revisit old haunts, new locations find favour with Indians.

The report also says relaxing and sunbathing are the top two favourite activities for beachgoers of five continents. 75 percent of Irish travellers that voted had opted for relaxing on the beach, while 79 percent of Mexicans prefer sunbathing. Brazilians, with 40 percent of total votes, were the most likely to engage in some kind of exercise on the beach.

Joe Megibow, the vice president and general manager of Expedia, said, ‘We’ve just completed our first annual Flip Flop Report which digs deep into what people like about beach travel. Not surprisingly, what they like when they’re planning a trip is saving money, so we’re launching the biggest Summer Sale in Expedia’s history. The report also shows that, once people are actually on vacation, they find a wide variety of ways to have their own kind of fun, whether that’s sports in the sand, surfing in the waves or whatever kind of sunbathing they prefer.’