EasyJet has switched provider of hotel inventory for its holiday division to the Lowcost Travel Group in what is being billed as a major upgrade to its wider travel strategy in Europe.
In some respects the move is a straightforward swap of its existing supplier, Hotelopia, to a new provider of contracted hotels in the form of the Lowcost Travel Group, the six-year-old bedbank created by former First Choice boss Paul Evans.
But replacing TUI-owned Hotelopia means EasyJet can go up against the likes of Thomas Cook and the TUI-run Thomson Holidays in the packaged holidays market across the continent.
Evans says the switch means EasyJet can see holidays as a integrated product rather than just an ancillary sale under the previous strategy.
The platform will continue to run on the Holidays.easyjet.com platform from early-2011, with all holidays protected under its existing consumer bonding scheme.
Evans says the deal will benefit from a dedicated marketing campaign, pan-European coverage (with multi-language options on-site), a wider range of hotel stock and, most importantly, a change in thinking from EasyJet to tap into the huge holiday market across Europe, a sector currently dominated by Cook and TUI.
Despite Lowcost currently selling heavily its own hotel inventory into offline intermediaries as a bedbank, agents will not be able to sell EasyJet Holidays, Evans says.
The new strategy at EasyJet is the first significant play by new CEO Carolyn McCall, brought in from the Guardian Media Group to replace Andy Harrison.
In the announcement, McCall says:
"We see a significant opportunity to further grow our ancillary revenues, by offering our customers a huge range of flexible and low cost beach and city holidays. This will be based on our extensive, convenient flight schedule and Lowcosttravelgroup’s great quality, competitive accommodation and transfers."
This, of course, isn't the only interesting development in the wider European travel sector in recent months.
Thomas Cook says its new online travel agency is up and running and on schedule in a bid to challenge the likes of Expedia and Lastminute.com across Europe.
EasyJet arch rival Ryanair, however, has so far avoided the package holiday route, preferring to partner with hotel stock providers (currently Booking.com) for an ancillary sale.
EasyJet also has its other ancillary providers in the shape of Hostelworld for budget accommodation and Viator for destination activity sales.