EasyJet Holidays will switch from being an online travel agent (OTA) to become a tour operator in May as it partners with Tui Travel’s Hotelopia to sell package holidays in seven European markets.
All bookings will be fully Atol-protected as easyJet Holidays aims to be “a strong number three” tour operator across Europe.
EasyJet Holidays launched three years ago selling accommodation with easyJet flights, with bookings handled by Lowcost Beds and financial protection provided by insurance.
It will relaunch its UK website and open sites in Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands from May 1 when its three-year deal with Lowcost Beds expires.
Hotelopia will hold the Atol and trade under the easyJet Holidays name. The Tui Travel-owned OTA contracts exclusively with sister bed bank Hotelbeds and offers 60,000 hotels and apartments around the world from its base in Palma.
EasyJet estimates 90% of the 60 million passengers it carries in a year buy accommodation and believes it can pick up a significant proportion of the business. Mandy Round, easyJet Holidays general manager, promised “an improved hotel portfolio, more user-friendly websites and an efficient booking process”.
She said: “Customers can look forward to a better selection of handpicked properties and will benefit from bespoke deals and exclusive offers.”
Packages will include city breaks, beach and ski holidays, a new range of activity holidays and, for the first time, excursions – although some of the new product will not be available until 2015.
Round said: “We have significantly grown easyJet Holidays in the UK with Lowcost Beds since 2011. This is about moving to the next level.”
Head of easyJet Hotels at Hotelopia Jon French said: “We are excited to have won this contract. We believe it is a perfect partnership.”
Round added: “The strategy [will be to operate] more as a traditional tour operator. All the flexibility will still apply, but there will be the benefits of a more traditional tour operator.
“EasyJet Holidays was set up as an OTA. Now we have established the brand, we want to be a strong number three.”
The company’s deal with Hotelopia will extend to the end of the summer 2017 season.
Tim Buckman, European managing director for the Lowcost Travel Group said: “We are delighted with the growth and success of the easyJet Holidays business over the last three years.
“Our world class team, product and service have demonstrated our capability to operate large, outsourced businesses on behalf of our important industry partners.”
He added: “Our continued focus on growing our own brands, Lowcost Beds and Lowcost Holidays, on a global scale, is delivering significant growth for the Group, with sales in our core businesses up over 40% year-on-year, and the excellent relationships we have built with both easyJet and Hotelbeds will remain and be part of our future growth.”