FLIGHT Centre has aggressively entered the online affiliate marketing space, with some competitors claiming it is paying up to A$40,000 a month to sell travel through several major websites.

Over the past three months, Flight Centre has done deals in rapid succession with high-traffic sites www.ninemsn.com.au, www.smh.com.au and www.getaway.com.au.

It is primarily selling domestic airfares and its hotel inventory through these sites, while also heavily advertising the new ‘Search Compare Book’ online campaign.

Further website signings are likely, intensifying competition and forcing up pricing in a sector previously dominated by the likes of Flairview Travel, Octopus Travel and the Online Travel Corporation (which is now part of the UK Lastminute).

Global Head of Marketing at Flight Centre, Colin Bowman, says the giant retailer – which some analysts feel has previously ignored the Internet to its detriment – is now fully committed to an online, multi-channel distribution strategy.

 ”In the last three months we have increased our emphasis on this medium and moving forward it’s going to be a bigger part of what we’ll do as part of our multi-channel push,” Mr Bowman says.

 ”We are really looking at the online space with consumers trending more to the web, either to purchase or for research.”

Bowman says Flight Centre has been looking at a number of new sites but scoffed at suggestions his company has been paying over the odds for an online presence, while declining to comment on specific figures.

“We’re not about to sit back and are always looking at new Internet opportunities, which we continually assess on a Return On Investment basis before making a business call.”

He says that Flight Centre has to be competitive in this area even though it may be taking revenue away from consultants.

“At the end of the day it’s all about promoting our product to the customer – we’ll deal with revenue issues internally,” Bowman says.

May 12, 2005

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