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When it comes to travel, the best deals come in packages — Expedia execs

BY ARLENE MARTIN-WILKINS Associate editor - news martina@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 18, 2013    

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Travellers who buy packaged flights and rooms are more inclined to book months in advance, stay twice as long at their chosen destination and are less likely to make flight cancellations.

The telling statistics were used to underscore the benefits of packaged holidays, a major feature of the tourism offerings from Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, at the 14th annual Expedia Partners Conference held under the theme ‘Travel Rising’ at the expansive Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas last Thursday.

At a break-out learning session, Expedia executives Marco Tagliatti and Steve Jarvis disclosed that information gathered by the leading online travel agency (OTA) showed that packaged deals allow vendors considerable room to differentiate on the basis of savings, a factor that weighs heavily on the buying decision of travellers.

“Cancellations for flights (booked as part of a package) are 60 per cent lower than stand-alone bookings while international bookings are 70 per cent more likely to come from packaging than stand-alone products,” explained Tagliatti, vice-president for lodging supply in Latin America.

 “Seventy-five per cent of holiday seekers book where the savings are. That’s why you should be dynamic, aggressive and play with your package rates,” he told the audience of mostly hotel representatives.

Later in a one-on-one, he told the Jamaica Observer that demand for destination Jamaica continues to grow with packages accounting for more than 50 per cent of all bookings.

“It’s growing in low double digits based on what we are seeing,” Tagliatti disclosed.

But he said there still existed unexplored opportunities that could help bolster the tourism offering.

“Jamaica does a lot of creative campaigning, but there is room for improvement,” he noted, citing the importance for Jamaica to test its competitive strengths against other major destinations in the Caribbean like Dominica.

Said Tagliatti: “The demand is there, we just need to convert them into bookings. It is important for Jamaica’s the hoteliers to be very dynamic. I think probably what we need to do together is to be more specific and aggressive when it comes to packages. The hotels need to be more sophisticated.

As for the much-touted development of sports tourism, he said such a development could help to bolster Jamaica’s image as well as generate interest and traffic. “It can help, but Jamaica still needs to have a strong strategy when it comes to packaging to convert demand into bookings,” Tagliatti emphasised

Earlier, in explaining Expedia’s role in the growing popularity of packaged holidays, Jarvis — the OTA’s vice-president for strategy, Global Tour and Transport — said the Expedia’s vertical integration with other travel service providers and its global distribution system give partners visibility across all marketing channels. Added to that, he said the agency’s use of technology to “improve flight selection” by factoring price, time of day, and duration of stay has only helped to improve the shopping experience of buyers.

Packaged deals, he stressed, are a widening sub-sector of the travel market. “It’s a growing marketplace, accounting for 2.5 per cent of the United States/domestic travel in 2012 and rose to 6.5 per cent in 2013,” he stressed.

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