Operators fighting back online

Tour operators will control almost a fifth of the UK online travel market by next year as the influence of online travel agents begins to wane.

A study by US research and analysis company PhoCusWright predicts UK tour operators will command an 18% share of the market by 2007, an increase of 6% from their position in 2005.

The increase will run counter to the influence on OTAs, who are expected to tumble by 5% over the same period.

PhoCusWright’s report, European Online Travel Marketplace: Focus on the UK, said growth in the European market reached 49% in 2005 to almost 29 billion Euros, with the UK accounting for 10 billion Euros.

“Tour operators and traditional airlines are beginning to redefine the marketplace as they develop coherent Internet strategies,” the report said.

It added: “Vertically integrated and armed with well-established brands, the offline travel behemoths have, belatedly but effectively, moved substantial sales online.

“In the UK, Thomson and Thomas Cook UK joined online travel agencies and low-cost carriers (LCCs) as giants in the UK Internet travel scene last year.”

* Full analysis of the report will be available in the next print edition of Travolution, available from 23 June.

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