European travel agencies are showing increased levels of interest in tools that will help them exploit the burgeoning market for online travel. Sabre alone reports selling online booking engines to six `conventional` travel agencies in the past three months.
(Caption: Alicia Gardner, vice president of Sabre`s online travel solutions
division. “European agency enquiries about online booking tools have
Champion Travel in the UK will use the mid-range Meridia.Res booking engine to power its Directflights.com site. The company plans to challenge the dominance of the established Internet travel sites in the UK by selling 350 million Euros of travel online annually, within five to 10 years.
French tour operator Boomerang is launching a business-to-business Internet site, also using Meridia.Res. The site will allow any French travel agency, regardless of global distribution system (GDS) affiliation, to book and ticket Boomerang`s tour content.
German package deal specialist Skytours uses the Internet to sell air travel, and is using Meridia.Res to power its site.
Italian agency Diners Club Travel was formed last year when Diners Club Europe bought three large Italian travel agencies; Ventura, Da Verrazzano and Vespucci. The amalgamated company is using Meridia.Res as the booking engine behind its site, aimed largely at providing leisure travel services for its predominantly corporate customer base.
Another Italian agency, Di Lauro Viaggi, is using Sabre`s second mid-range booking engine, Advanta.Res, to power its site in an effort to capture a greater share of the leisure market. It also aims to extend its business travel services online.
The Caribbean Travel Centre in the Netherlands is using Advanta.Res to power its online site, FlightEngine. An Amadeus booking engine previously powered this site, but Advanta.Res was deployed to give FlightEngine the ability to offer negotiated fares.
Sabre`s vice president for online travel solutions, Alicia Gardner, points to the six recent signings as proof that the concept of a “bricks and clicks” travel agency is catching on. She said Sabre was getting enquiries from travel agencies as far afield as Latvia and Bosnia although, perhaps unsurprisingly, most interest was coming from Western Europe. Sabre gets “several dozen” enquiries each month from agencies in this region.
Gardner acknowledged that not all of these are firm sales leads, and said many agencies simply wanted to know more about what tools were available, how they work and what the costs are of establishing an online presence.
“It`s noticeable, though, that the number of enquiries has rocketed over the past 12 to 18 months” she said.
“I believe the rapidly changing business environment has woken agencies up to the fact that they need to diversify their revenue streams, and offer customers the ability to buy travel in whichever channel they feel most comfortable.”
Internet analyst Jupiter estimates that the European market for online travel will be worth over 20 billion Euro`s by 2006, and that online traffic to travel sites grew by 75 percent in some European countries last year. The UK is the biggest online travel market in Europe, with almost six million people visiting travel sites in January 2002. Germany is next with 5.1 million, followed by France with 2.6 million.
Sabre has a suite of five online booking engines, ranging from a basic entry-level product to a booking engine that will support a full-service online travel agency like the French site, Karavel.
Related stories on ITN:
(28/05/2002) Spate of Travel Agency Conversions Across Europe
(02/04/2002) Sabre Selected as Technology Provider for Boomerang
(26/03/2002) Sabre urges agencies to go online