By Andy Sambidge
World's largest online travel company says it expects online bookings to more than double by 2015
Expedia, the world's largest online travel company, said on Tuesday it has no immediate plans to launch a local Middle East version despite predictions of an online booking boom in the region.
Walter Lo Faro, director of market management, Middle East & Indian Ocean, Expedia, said he saw the number of travel bookings made online in the Middle East “more than doubling” in the next five years.
He estimated that around 20–25 percent of travel transactions in the Middle East take place online, adding that the market was showing an “impressive speed of growth”.
In comments published by Hotelier Middle East on Tuesday, he added: “The Middle East is slightly slower on this development but it’s getting there – and especially I would say in the past 24 months the speed of growth in terms of Middle Eastern users actually making bookings online has been growing exponentially.”
However he said there were still “no immediate plans” to launch an Arabic language or local version of Expedia.com in the Middle East.
Expedia launched its sister website Hotels.com in Arabic two years ago.
“Expedia is slightly more complicated while hotels.com is basically a hotel bed bank, so that is disproportionally easier to launch,” said Lo Faro.
There are currently more than 70 Hotels.com sites worldwide, while Expedia has launched in 20 different countries.
“We always start with hotels.com, in every country, we make it work for a few years and see what happens and then according to the results we decide whether an Expedia site is the one to be launched or not.
“You have to fine-tune quite a few things here especially when you launch an Arabic site," he added.
"You have to figure out the language, the boxes don’t go in the same place, its quite challenging and complicated. But you never know it pretty much depends on how we will grow in the future.”