European online travel agency Ebookers says an improvement in its fortunes in recent months may herald a return to its expansion across the mainland continent.
The company, part of the Orbitz Worldwide empire, has stalled in its European expansion programme in recent years having in the past aggressively pushed into new territories either by acquisition or new launches.
But the main markets missing from its current European portfolio - Spain, Portugal and Italy - could be back on the agenda, according to its relatively new managing director Tamer Tamar.
Tamar says improvements to the Ebookers platform (part of a wider Orbitz IT project which ended in late-2008) and a restructuring of the business were contributory factors to the about-turn.
In February 2009, Orbitz Worldwide chief executive Barney Harford said any further international expansion would most likely be under the HotelClub brand rather than Ebookers.
Tamar says that the company is also considering introducing an offline travel agent affiliate scheme similar to the programme he spearheaded and made much of his reputation from when at Expedia.
The scheme normally works by allowing offline retail agents to earn commission from buying products from an OTA's website or call centre.
Tamar joined Ebookers in the summer of 2009, replacing Alan Josephs who left to become chief executive of TravelIntelligence.
In the six months following his appointment, Tamar says hotel stock has increased to 100,000 properties and dynamically packaged products have grown by 43% in Q3 year-on-year.
Nevertheless, Ebookers (like its early OTA counterpart Opodo) has slipped out of the top ten agency charts (by web traffic share) in recent years at the expense of newer brands such as On The Beach and TravelRepublic.
Many industry figures watched curiously to see what would happen once Cendant completed its acquisition of Ebookers in December 2004, knowing that the technology behind the scenes was almost certainly not going to integrate easily with the wider Cendant brands such as Orbitz, GTA and HotelClub.
Orbitz then spent the best part of two years investing in and overhauling the entire OTA platform across the group so that every brand was a single system. Ebookers was the first of the companies to relaunch on the new system in late-2008
Meanwhile, Tamar Ebookers is gearing up for what is being called "a major upgrade" to the front and back ends of the main site by the end of February 2010.
Tamar says the improvements to the website concern mainly functionality on the consumer side, rather than design work, and follow the success of an online chat tool for users.