Kayak and Expedia insist they are 'serious about Europe'

By Travolution
By Travolution
October 13, 2011 03:00 PM GMT

Two of the world’s biggest online travel retailers have insisted the European market is an important focus and more effort will be put into localising their offering.

Speaking in a session on expanding businesses overseas at the Travolution Summit both said the key was finding way to adapt their current infrastructures to scale up quickly.

This can be achieved organically or through “opportunistic” acquisitions which can significantly speed up the process of entering a new market although present the problem of integration.

Christian Saller, managing director of Kayak Europe, said this was the case when in May this year it bought Munich-based Swoodoo, Germany’s leading flights and hotel search site.

“You always look at opportunities. From a strategic point of view acquiring a company allows you to get a local team and local product very fast.

“Had Kayak tried to enter German speaking markets as they have with the buy-out of Swoodoo it would have taken a long time.”

John Veichmanis, senior director of ecommerce and sites at Expedia, said its strategy was to grow organically and that the choice of markets to enter comes from customer data it already has.

“The challenge for us is really taking a lot of the infrastructure and knowhow from the US and trying to develop a platform that can scale quickly and efficiently in another territory.

“The UK is a huge market for us, as well as France, Germany, Italy and southern Europe. We believe there is plenty of scope in those markets and the domestic opportunity in some of those markets is still very much untapped.

“We have done great work in terms of supply and we really need to put more emphasis on retailing and also emphasise our store front opening strategy.

“We are rich in terms of the data we have. We need to take a data-centric approach to where we are going to go next.

“From our own statistics we can identify if people are coming in from other territories where we do not have a point of sale specific to them. That gives us a good idea of potential opportunity for organic demand for Expedia.”

Saller pointed out that in Spain none of the major global OTAs rank in the top five websites, and this underlined the importance of developing a market with local partners.

“It’s important to have people who understand the market,” he said. “Then it’s about fine tuning the marketing message.” Veichmanis added: “We have a similar view in that ultimately we want to drive something that’s a scalable approach.

“Our site is a global experience but we are putting a lot more focus on creating tools that allow our local marketing managers to tailor that experience.

“Historically a lot of businesses have made the mistake of branching off their site and so the roll out of any new tools or technology slows down because you have to take into consideration tweaks and changes made by the local office.”

Asked how serious Expedia is about its European business, he said: “We take Europe very seriously. Our president has spent a lot of time in Europe and we see is as a great opportunity.”

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