Ten years after launching in North America, Hotwire is gearing up for a major assault on new markets around the world, beginning this week in the UK and Ireland.
At this stage the Expedia-owned Hotwire will only be launching the hotel element of the site elsewhere, an expansion programme president Clem Bason says will see a new country launch every three to six months.
Bason says the sites in Europe will be the first to get the Hotwire treatment, followed by markets in Asia-Pacific.
The move is the first significant development for the company since its acquisition by IAC in 2003 and the addition of flights and other products around the same time and over the course of next few years.
The new UK and Ireland versions of Hotwire will run with the existing opaque hotel inventory system - information about the hotel’s price, star rating, amenities, neighbourhood and customer reviews of the hotel are provided, but only once the room has been booked, the name of the hotel is revealed.
Bason says Hotwire has thought carefully about extending the opaque hotel inventory model and learned fro the experience of Priceline in replicating its slightly different, but essentially opaque system.
The time is right to use the opaque deals model, he claims, because more consumers are looking for cheap, shorter breaks and hotels, but more importantly because of a rating system deployed to establish "trust" with the consumers that its deals are worth buying.
The star rating included in the initial display of a property is taken from a number of online travel agencies, but following a guest's stay at a hotel they will be asked if they agree with rating that was offered - with a change being made if, over time, a hotel's star rating shifts away from those taken from OTAs.
Bason admits that launching outside of North America, which has its hotel stock tipped in favour of chains, as opposed to Europe where the balance shifts massively in favour of independents, will a "bigger challenge" but can be achieved.
A major marketing campaign (no details as yet) to support the launch the spread of the new country will kick during the summer of 2011, Bason says.
UPDATE: Bason later confirms flights and car hire as soon as possible.
"Like Hotels, the structure of the market for car rentals and flights are different in Europe and Asia (eg. Europe has more small car rental retailers than the US, and also a strong low cost carrier presence in air) and so it will take some work to get set up."