UK travel agents will have direct authorised access to Expedia inventory after the online agent announced plans to launch its Travel Agencies Affiliate Programme (TAAP) in the UK.
The scheme has been running in Italy for nearly four years and 30% of agents in the country take part.
Agents who sign up for the scheme will get access to a password-protected channel on expedia.co.uk from where they can book, and earn commission on, a range of Expedia content.
The price shown for a transaction on the agents’ site will be identical to the price for the same deal on the consumer site, allowing agents to compete directly on price with Expedia. Agents will earn commission if they use the customer’s card or the agency’s.
The commission rates are variable, with earnings paid quarterly.
Seat-only is not part of the arrangement. Expedia vice president EMEA Mikael Andersson said that it was difficult for Expedia to add value via seat-only bookings. “We think that areas where we enhance what agents can offer customers is hotels, dynamic packages using Expedia technology, rental cars and content from our destination services offer which includes transfers, tours and theatre tickets.”
He expects that hotels – “where we are very strong in late availability” – will prove popular with UK agents.
The TAAP however “is not an integrated solution” and agents will not be able to add a white-label version of Expedia onto their web sites. “It is intended for those people who still want to book through a traditional high street shop” he said.
Andersson will market it to the UK high street via trade advertising and direct mail. “There won’t be an army of sales people,” he said. Human resources will be focused on ensuring that queries about TAAP can be dealt with quickly and accurately.
Administration of the scheme – from handling queries to sending out the commission payments – has been outsourced to the team which has been handling the Italian version of TAAP.
“The processes and routines are already in place,” he said, “and the agency has added native English speakers for the UK launch.”
Expedia is looking to kickstart interest in the scheme not only by waiving the £40 joining fee for any agents who sign up before the end of the year but also offering “enhanced levels of commission” on any bookings made 31 March 2009.