Expedia is expanding its international offerings into France in a joint venture with SNCF, the state-owned railways group.
Under this joint venture, French travellers will be able to book flights, hotels, rail and car rentals on the voyages-sncf.com Web site. The enhanced site will bring together the best of both worlds from two travel industry leaders, combining the popularity of voyages-sncf.com with the technology and expertise of Expedia®, it was announced at a Paris press conference today. The voyages-sncf.com site currently reaches 10.2 percent of the total Internet population in France (source: NetValue, June 2001), while Expedia will build on the success of its localised services in the UK, Germany, and Canada and power the site with its award-winning technology. The joint venture will also bolster Expedia`s global growth strategy by establishing a presence with the online travel industry leader in France.
“This joint venture allows SNCF to partner with a worldwide online travel leader like Expedia, which has already achieved success in Europe and understands the uniqueness of each country`s travel market,” said Denis Wathier, managing director at voyages-sncf.com, who will serve as president of the joint venture. “French internet users will benefit from an enhanced experience on the voyages-sncf.com site, which will meet all of their travel planning needs, from weekend trips to summer holidays.”
Under the terms of the agreement, SNCF owns 53 percent of the joint venture (through its subsidiary, GL e-commerce), while Expedia, Inc. has a 47 percent stake.
Managing director of Expedia has suggested that since the voyages-sncf.com site already receives so much traffic with train bookings and information offerings, by adding flight, lodging and car rental services, the joint venture will create a new competitor in the online travel industry.
The enhanced voyages-sncf.com site is expected to be available by the end of 2001.
GL e-Commerce, presided by Mireille Faugère, was set up in August 2000. The company studies growth opportunities in the fields of trading and Internet communities, in order to enhance the expertise and know-how of SNCF Grandes Lignes.
GL e-commerce also manages the shareholdings that SNCF Grandes Lignes has in the travel and communities sector companies. In addition to its majority shareholding in the joint venture created with Expedia, Inc.®, GL e-Commerce has held and 100% financed voyages-sncf.com from its creation and in December 2000, 20% of the capital of Maximiles, the first French on-line customer loyalty program
In June 2000, SNCF Grandes Lignes set up its subsidiary, voyages-sncf.com aimed at managing and developing its interactive business. This was the date from which the SNCF site was run by voyages-sncf.com. Today, voyages-sncf.com is a leader in e-business and e-tourism in France. The site offers its clients an extended range of services from ordering a train ticket to finding tourist information for personal trips. In order to best meet its clients` expectations, voyages-sncf.com has recently set up a simple and user-friendly booking system: “3 click booking”. It also has set up partnerships to enrich its editorial content “Invitation to Travel” (Cityvox, Maporama, Meteoconsult, and Lonely Planet) and its range of services (car rental with Avis, entertainment tickets with Fnac Department store and soon hotels with Accor group). Recently, voyages-sncf.com also launched a service called RAVEL‰ available to travel agencies that have on-line business and virtual travel agencies. This allows them to offer train bookings on their sites. In this way, Travelprice, the leisure arm of Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Havas Voyages have already chosen to build this service into their respective sites.