Trade-only bed bank Bedswithease has announced it will introduce a new trade website and improved XML connectivity in coming months.
The supplier, part of the Broadway Travel Group, says it is seeing the best trading in its 15 year history both in passenger numbers and profitability.
It has seen 25% growth in 2017 and is on target to carry 200,000 passengers in 2016/17.
Growth has come after the demise of rival Lowcost Beds last year as well as increased direct contracting. Currently 60% of what Bedswithease sells is directly contracted and this is expected to rise to up to 80%.
This focus on overseas expansion will see the number of properties directly contracted rise from 2,500 to over 5,000 by 2019.
Paul Riches, sales director, said cost of acquisition and access to inventory in some key European destinations are challenges for the small to medium-sized UK OTA sector.
“Our challenge, and everyone’s challenge, is that while there are enough flight seats and pricing is low it’s the availability of rooms.
“If you take somewhere like Greece we will be strong because it’s more reliant on traditional static contracts, but if you look at the Spanish islands and mainland Spain a lot more hotels are working with channel managers.
“My hope is that we will see July and August come back after what has been a fairly flattish two or three months and some demand gets pushed into September and October so we see a longer season.
“We have the Euro exchange rate and the election didn’t help, there is a feeling of instability in the country, but last year we had the football and the referendum, so there’s always something you can blame.
“But we know that travel tends to be resilient and I still think we will get a strong late booking period. How it stacks up against last year, it’s very difficult to say.
“The challenge firms have in our part of the market is the cost of customer acquisition. There are so many people trying to drive clicks and calls it depends on where you place your money and your faith.
“It’s a bit of trial and error. The channel that worked last year is not necessarily going to work this year. It changes from one month to the next.”
Riches said smaller bed banks like Bedswithease with specific market knowledge can offer value in a sector that has seen significant consolidation at the scale end with Hotelbeds buying Tourico and GTA.
“The bed bank sector is interesting. Everyone can create a niche in their product offering. We have got hotels that we put commitments down on and get a level of exclusivity and those will deliver.
“The big guys globally are all things to all men, our core focus is on what our market and customers require. We know the market, and that’s where we fit in.”
Riches said improved XML connectivity is key for OTAs. “It’s about trying to extract more margin out of every single booking. We will help them do that by focussing core properties.”
Bedwithease is looking to grow steadily over the next two to three years from £50 million turnover to £90-100 million, said Riches, by taking a decent share of key partners’ business while working with a long tail of other agents.