‘Competition will rise for long-haul players’

Long-haul tour operators will start seeing stiff competition in the market if consumers continue to bundle their own deals online at the current rate.

This is the forecast from David Roche, vice-president and managing director, Hotels.com and Expedia Private Label EMEA, who told Travolution much of the growth in long-haul sales has come about with little or no effort from his company or similar online travel firms.

He said the trend had emerged “naturally” and without aggressive marketing, with buyers of long-haul holidays – like those of city breaks a few years ago – splitting into two camps due to the web.

“People are now willing to unbundle their own trips and use our sites to package their own deals.”

Roche added that most of the growth had so far taken place without any rigorous strategy to plug accommodation or flights in long-haul destinations – a move, he admitted, is likely to change.

“It hasn’t been a focus for us,” Roche said of existing marketing strategies. “But if you start to see the growth you then have to turn the tap on. Over time, as our bookings look to expand out of Europe, this will be one of the areas where we will be concentrating.”

The traditional long-haul players – such as Kuoni – will have to learn to compete with online players offering consumers the ability to pull together the various strands of their trip themselves, Roche said.

A recent survey of room-buying trends by Hotels.com revealed a massive increase in the number of long-haul bookings – with the Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Fiji, Oman, Belize and Peru all seeing year-on-year growth levels of 200%.

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