Expedia incentivises agents to book

EXPEDIA is launching its Travel Agent Affiliate Programme (TAAP) in South-east Asia, beginning with the Singapore market, which it recently entered (TTG Asia e-Daily, February 23).

It has forged a sales and marketing partnership with Discover the World Marketing to market TAAP to agents in Singapore and Malaysia. Agents who join TAAP earn in general a 10 per cent commission on non-air bookings and one per cent on air, with other commission rates applied for special promotions and packages.

TAAP is an eight-year-old programme launched in the US and Europe, as well as in Asia-Pacific, where it was introduced only last year in Australia/New Zealand and India. Apart from Singapore and Malaysia, it will also be launched in Thailand, the latter two being the markets Expedia will be entering in the next two months.

Stuart Udy, manager Expedia Travel Agent Distribution APAC, said that while agent contribution to Expedia’s bookings in mature online markets such as North America was small, it was “significant” in markets such as Asia-Pacific. He declined to cite revenue figures booked by agents in Asia-Pacific markets, but said direct consumer bookings would always be the bigger share to agent bookings in any market.

In New Zealand, 50 per cent of agents are Expedia TAAP agents, with 20 per cent in Australia. In India, 900 agents have signed up.

“If we were a retail group, we would be the biggest in terms of the number of agents using the product,” said Udy.

When asked about competition with B2B inventory sites such as Gullivers Travel Associates, Udy said Expedia’s competitive pillars were its attractive rates – “a buying power second to none”, he said – availability, wider inventory and service/training support provided to agents.

Sites such as Agoda, on the other hand, do not have a travel agent affiliate programme, said Tony Lim, Discover the World Marketing managing director Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Hong Kong & China.

Udy said that even without TAAP, some agents were using Expedia’s global inventory of more than 130,000 hotels and over 300 airlines to get preferential rates. “They then either charge a service fee or it’s part-and-parcel of their service to clients. With a commission, they have even more reason to book with us,” Udy said.

Asked why Expedia needed agents, Udy said: “Our position is we’re a seller of inventory and we’re also in a position to offer agents a commission when they work on our site. Why not be partners?”

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