International: Expedia UK Reaching Out to Agents

Expedia UK's fledgling Travel Agencies Affiliate Program has set a target of attracting at least 1,000 UK agents to sign on by the end of the year, according to a report at Travolution.co.uk.

The program, which gives the trade direct access to Expedia's inventory, now has 300 UK agents—in terms of individual branches —signed up since its launch in October last year. Most of the agents selling Expedia's products—hotel-only and dynamic packages—are small and medium-sized independent travel agents.

Tamer Tamar, managing director and vice president of Expedia Affiliates Network, told Travolution: "I think it's possible to get 1,000 by the end of the year, but it will be difficult."

He is confident the online travel agent could be working with most of the UK trade, including the multiples, in the future. "There is no reason why we cannot work with the majority of the trade. We have not seen any pattern of resistance," he said.

The company will now be focusing on ensuring TAAP, which pays commission of between 8 percent and 12 percent depending on volumes sold, gives the right support to its agent affiliates. "Now that we have a decent number of sign-ups, we have to get back to them more frequently and see what is working and what isn't— that's our focus for the next two months," he added.

Already hotel-only is the highest seller through the trade, but dynamic package sales are far exceeding expectations. "Packages are doing best vs. our expectations," he said.

Tamar claims agents are attracted by the breadth of product offered, from one-star to five-star properties, the competitive prices and fast dynamic packaging technology.

Overall, TAAP is contributing a "healthy percentage" of the company's overall UK sales. "Depending on which segment, sales are in double figures. I want the business to be just as big as Expedia and Hotels.com but we have a long way to go."

Already TAAP is being rolled out in new markets: Germany launched in January and has already attracted a similar number of agents to the UK, while the rest of western Europe is targeted in the next nine to 12 months.

It has been running in Italy for more than four years and now works with around a third of its travel agency market.

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