Expedia eyes double-digit growth, easyJet sees upturn

Online travel giant Expedia expects to see double digit growth in the UK this year as it continues to benefit from customers migrating online.

Andy Washington, Expedia’s managing director in the UK, said the online travel agent would benefit from meeting customer demands for online travel bookings in all channels.

“We are looking for double digit growth across all global markets and we are on track to do that,” Washington told the WTM Vision conference in London this week.

“Businesses that serve consumer demand and can be fast-paced, move with the times embrace mobile, social and any other channels that come to the fore will thrive, adapt and grow.

“If you keep doing what you have been doing for the past 175 years then your business will continue to suffer. There is going to be a continued shift online taking market share off competitors by doing things smarter, better and fulfilling that customer demand.”

Paul Simmons, UK director of easyJet, said that although trading was difficult it was improving.

“You have to be a bit smarter and fight for every booking you are going to get. It’s our job to make sure people are stimulated and want to travel. We have been growing our city breaks to fill our mid week on main city routes. We will see moderate growth but we may not grow as fast as previous years.”

Simmons said easyJet’s strategy, which it has been developing for a number of years, is to concentrate on core routes and prime locations, rather than secondary airports.

It has been growing frequency on the most popular routes and is now operating more of the top European point to point routes than any other airline, with 46, Simmons said.

The budget carrier has been developing its relations with the trade, but Simmons said this did not mean it would simply emulate how more traditional carrier operate. “If those airlines who have had a [trade] sales force for a long time had a clean sheet of paper they would probably not do what they do now.

“We have a clean sheet of paper and we have started our dealing with the trade in a different way. We do not just want to copy what other people have done because it’s not necessarily got them in a good place.”

EasyJet has been adapting its offering to woo business travellers in particular and has also sought to differentiate itself from its main rival Ryanair not just in terms of the its network but marketing.

“For the first time we have started running brand ads on TV without talking about price,” Simmons said. Simmons claimed the winter period had been strong for easyJet on the back of the ski season and summer sun destinations like Egypt and Morocco.

He claimed easyJet benefitted from not pulling out capacity to destinations effected by the Arab Spring. “When you have an issue like the Arab Spring you tend to find supply falls away faster than demand. We tried to hold our supply and we actually did very well.

“Summer leisure business is looking pretty good but because booking is a little later there is also a measure of uncertainty not only with the economy but the Olympics, the Jubilee and the Euros [football championships].”

Washington agreed customers are tending to book later and take longer researching and evaluating their decision, however this was a long term trend rather than just a reaction to the downturn.

“Consumers are taking longer in the thought process because Tripadvisor has come in to the marketplace and consumers are able to research more content.

“People have more content, so they consider more. Social is just one channel, mobile is just one channel. It’s about the whole end to end piece.”

Both easyJet and Expedia said they were seeing an increase in business travel customers due to the value for money they offer and technology enabling bookings.

“Managed business travel is under pressure. There are apps out there which means you can expense your unmanaged business travel by just taking a picture of your receipt.

“Nectar points are a huge driver of unmanaged business travel because there are a lot of Pas out there who collect the points themselves.”

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