Youtravel.com expands in Europe

Accommodation-only specialist youtravel.com has launched in France, the most recent phase of its plan to become a pan-European business.

The business, which has just entered its second year of trading, already has local youtravel.com sites for the UK, German, Italian, Swedish and Chinese markets and has its sights set on other countries in the coming months. Each of the international sites is priced in local currency.

Chief executive and founder John Kent said: “Our move into France is an important one as around three-quarters of French travellers take their holidays within France.  This means that we are increasing our French product dramatically which will benefit other markets, particularly the UK.”

Other countries on youtravel.com’s radar are Norway and Finland, which are hoped to be launched early in 2008.

As its European horizons expand, youtravel.com has restructured its international sales team.

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Karen McCarthy, previously UK business development manager, has moved to become international sales manager based from its offices in Surrey for the majority of the time. Both Karen and the current international sales manager, Sofia Zournatzidi, report directly into Kent.

Kent commented: “We have always said that our aim for youtravel.com is to become a truly European business and to be in this position after just 12 months of trading is an incredible feat.

“This time next year we could be looking at a very different market place in the UK. In other parts of Europe there has been minimal impact from bed banks meaning that we have been able to get a foothold in the market quickly. For example when we launched in Italy we signed up 2500 travel agents in three months.”

2008 PLANS
In its first year youtravel.com, which launched on October 28 2006 and is backed by Barclays Ventures, carried just under 300,000 passengers and generated almost €70m million turnover.

In 2008, youtravel.com is aiming to double its size.

Kent said: “We are targeting €150million turnover in 2008, 70% of which is expected to come from the UK and we’re expecting to carry between 650,000 and 700,000 passengers.”

He added: “We are confident of hitting these targets which may seem ambitious for a young company but there is growth to be had. For example, one of our highest producing trade accounts only signed up with us in May and so we will benefit from their support in a full year. Also as we launched at the end of October we missed out on a lot of turn-of-year bookings to those who had been established longer for those early sales periods.”

NEW PRODUCT
Youtravel.com is increasing its cities product as well as in resorts and cities throughout France and Italy as one its key priorities for 2008.

Kent said: “There is a major shortfall in bed banks’ portfolios’ in Italy and France in general when it comes to the resorts. The French Riviera and upmarket Italian resorts such as Ischia as well as properties in lakes and mountain areas are top of our priority list and will be loaded onto the site by the beginning of December.
?“French resorts are planned to be live in time for Summer 2008. It seems crazy that there is still this gap when there are so many flights into these areas and of course for France there is the added bonus of being able to travel by train or car from the UK and other European countries. There’s not enough French and Italian product for B2B, whereas there appears to be tonnes for B2C customers. We can help agents’ growth in this area.”

Also coming for youtravel.com in 2008 is a programme in Bulgaria for the first time as well as more Caribbean product.

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