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Fri 11 Jul 2008 04:00 AM

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Etihad Holidays distribution channel overhaul

Etihad Holidays has overhauled its distribution channel strategy by opening more retail outlets and introducing a new IT system that will boost sales through all channels, including travel agencies.

Etihad Holidays has overhauled its distribution channel strategy by opening more retail outlets and introducing a new IT system that will boost sales through all channels, including travel agencies.

Having already opened two holiday shops in Abu Dhabi this year - in Al Wahda Mall and Khalidiayah Mall - which contribute to 30% of Etihad Holidays total sales, the tour operator, part of Etihad Airways, has revealed plans to open 12 holiday shops across the GCC in the next two years.

This year will see shops open their doors in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, next to the new snow dome, in mid-August and in late 2008, in the new Balwadi Mall in Al Ain and in Dubai, the location of which has not been confirmed, although Etihad Holidays general manager Tony Gauci confirmed it would be "the Abu Dhabi end of Dubai".

The shop in Al Ain - a location Gauci said was driving "strong sales" - will measure 65m² while the Marina Mall shop will be the operator's biggest yet at 115m2.

"This mall attracts 10 million visitors a year so there is a lot of potential, plus by being next door to the snow dome we will attract lots of families," Gauci said.

Two additional stores will open by the end of 2008 with possible locations including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Muscat, he added.

Rather than taking sales away from other channels, the shops were growing Etihad Holidays' business, which for the first four months of 2008 increased 140% on the same period in 2007, said Gauci.

"One of our key strategies in a mall is to compete with other retailers so we are persuading shoppers to book a holiday rather than buy a new TV," he said.

"It's all about getting our part of the business for the travel sector."

Gauci said sales from all channels had increased year on year and that around 15% of sales were sourced from travel agents, mainly from Abu Dhabi.

To further improve agents' ability to book Etihad Holidays packages, the company has rolled out a new IT system, ‘Orion' that streamlines the booking process.

"It allows sales operators to create all-inclusive holiday packages for customers covering all aspects of the holiday, including accommodation, ground services and flights," said Gauci. "It also provides real-time availability, instant quotes and instant confirmation so a booking can be made on-the-spot."

This is currently only available to Etihad sales staff but will be available to agents early next year, he added.

Etihad Holidays will also roll out a bookable B2C online solution next year, which Gauci said would take care of simple travel bookings while complicated itineraries would still be directed to Etihad shops or travel agents.

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