Expedia promises independence for bed brands

Expedia Inc will run its recently acquired Italian bedbank venere.com as a separate business alongside hotels.com.

David Roche, senior vice president Expedia EMEA,  told Travolution: “We plan to keep venere.com as a separate business until we figure out what’s what. Integration did not drive the deal.”

Roche added that it was “very viable” to operate three brands – venere.com, hotels.com and Expedia –  without cannibalising its existing trade. “Online hotels is a good place to be in EMEA. The market is huge.”

Venere.com gives Expedia access to properties in Italy and other southern Europe destinations, filling a gap in its inventory. It means a net addition of 10,000 hotels to Expedia’s database.

Expedia Inc chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said during its Q1 2008 earnings call this May that the business was focussed on signing up new hotels in Europe this year.

Roche admitted that the venere.com deal was a quick way to add beds “but we’re not taking our foot off the accelerator when it comes to new signings, particularly in northern and central Europe where venere.com isn’t that strong”.

No financial details about the transaction were unveiled. The latest figures available for Venere show that it took more than €300m of bookings in 2006.

Also this week Expedia became a  white-label partner for BBC Worldwide’s LonelyPlanet.com. Roche said: “I’m delighted. The Lonely Planet brand has global credibility and we really wanted it – lots of other people did too. It was a very competitive pitch.”

He added: “What we can do in the future as the two organisations get to know one another is interesting.”

Meanwhile, Expedia Media Solutions has signed a deal with VisitFinland, providing the country with marketing and advertising opportunities in 11 Expedia markets including the UK and US. There are also plans to promote Helsinki as a city break destination.

Roche explained that the unit is currently in talks with a number of major destination management companies and  tourist boards.

“They are waking up to marketing opportunities other than press, billboards and trade fairs. They want to be online because that’s where the audience is.”

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