Special Report: Ryanair aims to be Amazon of travel

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Carrier aims to move rapidly from selling flights to dominating travel retail. Ian Taylor reports

Low-cost giant Ryanair is just two years away from becoming the ‘Amazon of travel’, selling holidays, rooms and car hire, according to chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs.

“Ryanair is already the go-to place for cheap flights,” he said.

“In the next couple of years we want to become the go-to place for all travel needs.

“We’re going to be a travel business that happens to have an airline at its centre.”

Jacobs told a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast audience: “When we first said we want to be the Amazon of travel two years ago, people said ‘That is nonsense’. But we’re the world’s most-visited airline website with 600 million visits a year. We’re monetising that into people buying car hire, hotels and holidays.”

He said: “Three and a half years ago we had a website that didn’t work on mobile. We didn’t have an app. We didn’t have customer data and wouldn’t have known how to use it.

“Now we have an app with 21 million active users. We have a full customer database.” Jacobs conceded: “There is a limited range we can sell compared with Amazon, but there are probably 30 travel products and services we can sell.

“Four years ago you would come to Ryanair to book a flight and then you were asked ‘Here is car hire. Do you want car hire?’ and taken to a different website.

“Now we say: ‘This is a family with two kids under five flying from Manchester to Faro for two weeks. Here is a Citroen Picasso with free child booster seats for pick-up from Faro on the day the flight arrives, and it’s the cheapest price.’

“We’re targeting the right product to the right customer at the right time. When you book summer holiday flights in January, you’re not thinking about car hire. The consumer mindset is to sort out flights, then accommodation, then how to get from the airport, then theme parks, restaurants etc. That is the pie we want more of. But it starts with the flights.

“The advantage we have is consumers sort out the flights first. We want the customer to take more from us.”

Jacobs, who previously worked for Tesco, said: “As a retailer coming into the industry it was obvious you should own the customer data, try to own as much distribution as you can and bring together customers and products at the right time.

“Airlines just totally missed digital. I’m amazed any airline has the bulk of its distribution coming via global distribution systems and Google. They pay for traffic. They’re idiots.”

But he insisted the shift to more extensive travel retailing would not change the Ryanair model, saying: “Are we going into ultimate holiday experiences [like] honeymoons? No, we’ll keep the Ryanair footprint. There is enough money to be made in the segments we can get into without diluting the focus on cost, the focus on the simplicity of Ryanair.”

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