Expedia has signalled the first signs that the online travel agent sector could be gearing up for a price war as the web prepares for its busiest ever New Year period.
The UK site is to introduce an “early bird” booking promotion for customers during the rest of the November, rewarding users with savings of up to 20% on some travel products.
The move is being labelled by Expedia as a battle against the low cost carriers, but a senior industry source said the discounting could spark similar discounting across the OTA sector.
It is believed the traditional busy period of January and February will next year could for the first time see significant pressure on a number of the existing OTAs as a number of leading operators and suppliers look to focus their efforts through the web with aggressive makreting for direct sales.
However, Expedia said its sale has been created to “recognise” how travellers were adapting their purchasing habits in order to grab the best deals at the relevant time.
Expedia UK managing director Caroline Cartellieri said: “Online travel is largely responsible for customers making ‘eleventh-hour’ bookings and whilst this did used to yield the cheaper deals, this is becoming less apparent.
“We hope that Expedia’s ‘Early Bird’ campaign will encourage travellers to change the way they shop with us and benefit from the savings.
The promotion will be backed by a print advertising campaign in the UK national press. It will include beach holidays, city breaks, family holidays and long-haul trips booked for travel between 1 January and 31 August 2007.