ebookers ready for ‘aggressive’ European stance

Orbitz Worldwide (OWW) has talked up the fourth quarter performance of ebookers and says that the brand is now ready to “compete aggressively” in Europe as a full-service online travel agency.

During the fourth quarter, ebookers returned improvements across a number of key metrics – transaction volumes increased by 37%; stayed room nights increased by 69%; gross bookings increased by 42%; and net revenue increased by 60%.

Chief executive Barney Harford added that standalone air, hotel and dynamic packaging metrics were also ahead, year-on-year and sequentially.

“As we often say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, but the progress we’ve made [at ebookers] is tremendous,” he said.

Harford referred to the global platform and the new team in Europe as reasons for the improvements. “We realigned and streamlined our structure in Europe, which meant we were able to execute marketing initiatives more effectively in Q4.”

He also threw improved hotel inventory into the mix. OWW has access to nearly 100,000 hotels, including 40,000 in Eureope, the Middle East and Asia.

A key element of growing ebookers global hotel business, he said, was improving its relationship with hoteliers, “The number of properties we have directly contracted increased by 35% during the year,” he said.

 “We feel good about our position as an OTA in Europe,” Harford said. ” We’ve got an aggressive plan for 2010 for a variety of market engagement strategies.”

However, OWW’s  standalone hotel brand, hotelclub, is facing a “greater competitive environment” in Europe, with the greatest opportunity for the brand in Asia Pacific, where currently 60% of its transactions come from.  

But Harford added that “the member rewards and loyalty component of hotelclub make it a compelling proposition, globally”.

Overall, Orbitz is “not satisfied” with the performance from hotelclub. It recently appointed Jeremy Bellinghausenas president for the brand.  Harford talked up Bellinghausen’s track record in “product management, analytics and site optimisation”.

He added: “We’ll have significantly more to update you on in the next call.”

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