Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eye For Travel Summit: Learn direct

Ryanair is 100% committed to direct distribution. When it carries 83m passengers across in Europe in 2012, as planned, virtually all travellers will book directly at ryanair.com. If Ryanair released TTV figures, there would be some online travel giants looking very small indeed.

But Sinead Finn, head of sales and marketing for the airline, offered advice for suppliers who did want to shift inventory through third parties. Make sure you have access to all the information about your customer who is booking indirect; ensure that your intermediary isn’t undercutting you on price, and only bother if you need the business.

Cormac Whelan from Datalex suggested that suppliers should only work with third party intermediaries who have invested in their own infrastructure. “This allows you to maximise the business relationship,” he explained.

The price integrity issue is why easyJet’s cheapest fares are always on easyJet.com. This isn’t likely to change. ‘Any third party booking will incur a point of sale fee,’ stated Jerry Dunn, its distribution development manager. easyJet charges ‘an average fee of £4 per segment’ for any one else wishing to sell its seats.

Finn said she couldn’t see any reason why big brands couldn’t go 100% direct. InterContinental is as big as they get, but still sees a place for third parties. Andrew Rubinacci, VP distribution marketing, told delegates at Eye For Travel’s Distribution Summit Europe 2008 that “we see OTAs as an extension of our brand and we want to make sure we are there.”

For example, visitors to London could find out about IHG’s 20 or so properties in the city through an online agent if they weren’t on familiar terms with its brands dotcom.

IHG’s media model deal with Expedia continues to make sense, even if the commercial terms of the tie-up remain top-secret.

Martin Cowen, chief writer, Travolution

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