VisitBritain defends CarTrawler tie-up

Spare a thought for Car Trawler and VisitBritain, which recently announced a partnership to provide car-hire meta-search facilities across 46 country websites belonging to the UK tourist board.

The Dublin-based meta-search provider, still only in its third year of operation, was clearly in celebratory mood after securing the deal with VisitBritain.

Mirroring similar deals recently signed with a single provider of content, such as flights with Opodo in Europe, VisitBritain states it wants to offer as much choice to users as possible. But what Car Trawler and VisitBritain perhaps didn’t anticipate was the negative reaction to the deal from some global car-hire aggregators.

Within a few days of the deal becoming public, one such service wrote angrily in the Australian media voicing concerns as to whether the deal was exclusive. Questions were also raised as to whether a tendering process took place.

There are suggestions that the scale of Car Trawler’s offering (450 suppliers and counting) is putting some of the old guard in a position of not being able to compete – a common worry among some online travel agencies facing pressure from meta-search engines.

Nevertheless, VisitBritain hit back: “Essentially the partnership with Car Trawler means users of our websites can have access to pricing, availability and bookings from more than 450 car-rental suppliers globally in addition to suppliers that we might be working with in individual markets.

“Our aim is to widen consumer choice not narrow it,” a spokesman adds.

Criticism seems to have fallen away since the initial outrage surfaced, but VisitBritain is still attempting to ensure the rules were never broken.

The spokesman explains: “We comply with Government guidelines as a non-departmental public body but as we are not purchasing any services from Car Trawler a tendering process is not required.”

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