Thursday, January 11, 2007

Opodo is taking the plunge

Today’s confirmation of job cuts and a massive restructuring at online travel agent Opodo will not surprise many in the industry.

The agency has seen a string of senior managers leave in the past few weeks following the arrival of new chief executive Ignacio Martos (pictured) from Spanish travel portal Rumbo. [He was brought in by parent company Amadeus to replace Hilton-bound Simon Vincent]

The exit list includes: HR director Garry Thompson, chief financial officer Jill Robinson, UK country manager Neil Mott, commercial and product director Sally Balcombe, and head of tours Chris Roe.

Rumours have been circulating all week after it emerged Roe had quit to join Virgin Holidays, with speculation suggesting a redundancy headcount of 70 (neither confirmed or denied) and a fundamental shift in its operations from a highly centralised business to what will now be very much a regional operation.

Ever since the company was first mooted by a group of nine European airlines in late-2000, chief executives (one for every year since its launch in 2001, in fact) have had to face not only the rapid rise of their rivals Expedia and, but the growth of supplier-direct websites.

Indeed, Ebookers is looking to re-enter the fray, after a few years in the doldrums, with a vastly improved technology platform and new look website (expected in April).

However there is no doubt that there is some pressure on the old – we can call them that now – OTAs as airlines and hotels beef up their websites and the travel search engines, such as Travelsupermarket, Sidestep, Kelkoo, Cheapflights, Kayak et al, continue their speedy growth.

Opodo’s new strategy will be to create localised management teams, responsible for their own marketing and commercial operations, enabling them to react quickly to regional trends.

This makes sense in many respects – Opodo has different rivals and fundamentally different challenges in each market. [Expedia is strong in the UK, but less so in France, while for Opodo it is the opposite scenario]

Clearly Opodo needs to be well positioned and shaken up in order to grow or indeed, as some suggest, survive.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution


Anonymous said...

We at helped build a killer product team for Sally Balcombe over the last eighteen months. It is naturally disappointing to see Opodo losing such exceptional talent out of its organisation. I think these redundances are clearly brought about by a change in strategic direction and dont cast any doubts on the individuals themselves who I am sure will go on to bigger and better things.

Travolution Blogger said...

thanks for the comments, Gail.

Lisa Lavers said...

We have enjoyed recruiting for Opodo since the very early days and it is a shame to see them displacing some really great talent. Although... happy days for other organisations looking to secure some real stars. is where you'll find them!