US giant Expedia has opened its first branded site in the Asia-Pacific region with the launch of www.expedia.com.au in Australia.
The site only offers hotel and attractions at this stage but Managing Director Arthur Hoffman said car hire and flight sales would follow “sooner rather than later”.
Japan, the world’s second largest tourism market, is also on the Expedia radar.
“We are actively looking at Japan,” said Hoffman, although the company has yet to decide its entry strategy, which could take one of three forms: organic, joint venture or acquisition.
Expedia also has a presence in China through its 52% shareholding in elong, the second largest online travel retailer in that market.
“Australia is a little easier to enter into under our own brand and leverage our global platform,” Hoffman said.
The Australian online travel market is very competitive and relatively mature by regional standards.
However, the online travel marketplace tends to be dominated by the major domestic airlines – Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Blue – and hotel sites like Wotif.com and Hotel Club.
At this stage, while online retail brands such as Webjet and Travel.com.au are popular, no single company dominates in terms of traffic or brand recognition.
A confident Hoffman believes that Expedia will rapidly make inroads and that consumers will warm to its cutting-edge technology.
“Every year Expedia invests more than US$100 million in technology,” he said.
Meanwhile, after a rocky start following its August stock market spin-off from InterActiveCorp, Expedia shares are now trading at US$26.10 – well up on the US$18.49 of late October.
Expedia operates branded sites in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom., German, France, Italy, Netherlands and now Australia.
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