London-based online travel agent start-up loveholidays.com is poised to enter the dynamic packaging sector as it plots to join the elite of UK independent retailers.
The Notting Hill retailer, which currently offers just third party packages, says it hopes to be ranked alongside Travel Republic, On The Beach and Lowcost Holidays within three years.
Having launched in beta in January it has raised £2.5 million in three rounds of funding from individual trade investors including John Moulton of Alchemy Partners and WTTC chief executive David Skowsill.
Another of those backers is Hays Travel founder John Hays, whose Independence Group consortium has LoveHolidays as a member using its Atol cover. Hays also currently fulfils its call centre requirements.
Alex Francis, founder and chief executive, said LoveHolidays would take market share by being “aggressive on price”.
The website has developed its own bespoke technology to allow a much more flexible search offering for customers.
Similar to the ‘extreme search’ concept developed by Amadeus-owned leisure arm Traveltainment in Germany it allows multiple destinations, departure point and date searches.
The system allows prices to be researched for an entire month and the move into dynamic packaging will see a significant ramping up of the 150 million daily offers it currently generates.
Francis said the site had proved its worth this summer to suppliers including Cosmos Holidays, Thomas Cook and Tui sister brands Thomson and First Choice.
“The marketplace is very competitive and there are some big players out there with repeat customers and brand loyalty.
“We need to invade that space and that means being price aggressive. The key is that as a customer you are completely unrestricted in doing your search. You don’t need the customer to choose a destination for the deal to get visibility.
“In a price sensitive market one of the key things customers are looking for is value for money. We allow price comparison – you choose a hotel and we have multiple operators so you can see all the prices.
“We will discount as heavily as we can – we are price aggressive. We are taking distressed inventory and pushing it hard through our systems. We can surface very quickly good value holidays where they [suppliers] are discounting heavily.”
LoveHolidays also offers a low deposit scheme from £49 per person and in January will launch a monthly scheme to allow customers to spread their balance payments out.
Future developments planned include adding city breaks and moving into other sectors like cruise, ski and luxury.
However, Francis said he was focused on establishing itself in the dynamic packaging sector having developed the platform.
“We want to get to a stage that in two to three years time we will be in the same bracket as Travel Republic, On The Beach and Lowcost.
“We want to focus on what we have got right so far, improve on it, expand on that and roll it out to other sectors.
“For us repeat business is fundamental and we think the brand name lends itself to that emotional aspect of buying a holiday.”