Having led the break up of the traditional package holiday online players are turning their focus on packaged deals.
At this week’s Phocuswright Europe conference in Dublin pioneering digital brand Lastminute.com and Google both said they were turning their focus on packages.
The move reflects the enduring strength of the package market in many European markets, particularly the UK and in the continent’s largest market Germany where they continue to dominate.
Fabio Cannavale, chief executive of Lastminute.com Group, said the firm’s main focus on Europe is on the digitisation of the package sector, 70% of which remains offline. “We think there is tremendous growth in that,” he said. “Integration of different services; adding together flights, hotels, transfers, car and other services, all our focus is on that.” Cannavale said this could be achieved both internally and through acquisition.
Lastminute was sold by Sabre Corporation to to the Bravofly Rumbo group for $120 million in December 2014 and since the firm has rebranded making Lastminute its overarching corporate identity.
In another reflection of the importance of the package holiday sector, Google said it was also building a packed holiday exploration service. Oliver Heckmann, vice President of product and engineering for travel and shopping, said it will work with a small number of OTA and tour operator partners developing the product. “You will hear more about this in the future,” he said.
At the same time Google will continue to develop its own travel products like Flight Search, Hotel Finder and its new Destinations mobile service and Trips mobile app, its soon to be launched in-destination discovery tool.
Heckmann repeated Google’s assertion that it has no intention to become an OTA. “There’s a misconception about what we are doing. We have not been super transparent about what we are doing. “That’s why we are explaining what we have done and where we are headed. I think you will see we are a really good partner for the industry. We have no plans to become an OTA. We look to partners – both suppliers and OTAs – and send them traffic. It works for them and it works for us. We want to keep it that way.”
Asked about the potential threat from Facebook, which this week launched a new dynamic ads for travel product and owns Instagram and direct messaging services Messenger and WhatsApp, Heckmann said:
“One of Google’s strengths is people come to us with a clear intention in mind. That’s the strength we are building on. Facebook has its own strategy building on the social strengths it has, but that’s very different when you have very clear user intent.”
Heckmann announced a new ‘book on Google’ deal with AMOMA.com that will see hundreds of thousands of hotels available to book directly on the search engine without clicking away to the site.
He said the new assisted booking button on Google makes it very clear that it is the partner taking the booking and not Google itself. “It’s partner branded and very clear the user is purchasing from the partner. We are passing all information on to the partner. The partner is in full control of the customer relationship. This is moving up conversion levels by significant numbers.”