Expedia is to become the “first global full-service OTA” to introduce rail travel to its site.
In partnership with SilverRail and supported by the Association of Train Operating Companies and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), from the autumn Expedia customers will be able to purchase rail travel throughout Britain.
Expedia believes this will mark the first time a global, full-service online travel agency has offered a rail component in addition to other travel products such as air, hotel, car rental, activities and packages.
Orla Lee, the Expedia group’s senior director of market management for Northern Europe, said: “This initiative is bound to bring benefits for our hotel partners, who will be able to take advantage by attracting all those extra travellers who now have the opportunity to create rail-focused packages, or even packages that include just a small element of train travel.
“Hotels in or around major UK rail destinations – Edinburgh, Liverpool and Bristol for example – should certainly start looking to market themselves to train travellers, and we’ll work with them to maximize those opportunities.”
Kathryn Cooper-Fay, RDG head of customer journey, said: “We want to benefit rail operators and their customers while expanding access to the railway, and offering National Rail products on Expedia through its partnership with SilverRail does just that.
“We’re pleased to support such a strong partnership and we know that Expedia will work diligently to deliver the level of service our customers expect of rail travel retailers.”
Phocuswright’s 2016 data indicates rail is a $130 billion market opportunity and that rail is the fastest growing sector in travel.
This is thought to be due in part to recent growth from private and government investment, technology advancements and convenient access and destinations for travellers.
“We’ve learned quickly that adding rail to our business is not as easy as copy-pasting our existing booking models,” added Greg Schulze, senior vice president, commercial strategy and services at the Expedia group.
“Rail is a unique platform and our partners have been great in ensuring a seamless entrance into the market and delivering high customer value as well.”
Customers visiting the Expedia.co.uk site will be the first to be able to book rail travel – the company has plans to expand to other countries and rail providers in the future.