Big Interview: European market key to’s global ambitions

Big Interview: European market key to’s global ambitions

The business’ approach of one size doesn’t fit all has helped it build the brand in other markets to keep it moving towards its goal of being the number one OTA globally

Three years into leading Europe for the Chinese-owned OTA, Andy Washington, has built the brand to a place where more and more partners want to work with the firm.

“It’s been an educational journey,” he said, explaining the extensive learning on how customers vary between China, Asia and Europe, and even within Europe itself.

The team has been working on “something that’s a little bit different, very localised” unlike “many other OTAs that have a one size fits all” approach.

Its recent partnerships with leading global airlines, major hotel chains, key railway operators, and prominent financial services providers, have also bolstered its position of growth.

The European general manager warned that partnerships have to be the right technology, the right supply or the right fit for the customer, though.

“We won’t just sign partnership deals if we don’t think they’re effective or the right fit for the customer,” he said. 

He confirmed the brand won’t go down the route of having its own airline because the “customer wants choice”.

So, maintaining diverse partnerships is “essential” to the business.

The growth trajectory that is on in Europe has not only doubled its workforce but also expanded its business beyond hotels and flights. Train travel has become a significant part of this expansion.

Partnerships with companies like Eurostar have played into this big push. 

Since early March last year, has scaled up from selling 10 train tickets a day, to 12,000 a day. 

There’s still “a lot” of room to grow, though, and Washington is excited about the potential.

In order to grow its market share to a point where it matches that of its stronghold in Asia, Washington said it’s not a one- or two-year job. 

It may take a few years to reach a similar market presence as that of Asia, but he is optimistic. 

He said: “We know there’s competition, particularly one that has a massive hotel share in Europe, but I also know that you can change the game. 

“I’m confident that with our leadership and our investments, the growth path we’re on will capture significant market share.”

While market reports suggest a slowdown, especially noted in February, this is not the case for

“Our market will see more growth and more investment, particularly around our app, over the next few years,” Washington added.

A by-product of the work already put in by the firm has seen supplier relations improved.

“We’ve been having some excellent meetings with all those partners because there’s not just that trust there.

“We’re now able to deliver on the promises that we’ve been saying on where we would go,” he said.

The team remains steadfast on growing the European domestic business and into Europe while focusing on becoming the number one in outbound travel from Asia by 2027.

Washington spoke about his positive outlook on his future with the online travel group, noting there’s a strong alignment within the team.

 “I'm enthusiastic about what we're building here, and I see a similar enthusiasm among the team; we're all focused on reaching the same goals,” he acknowledged.

“I’m here for the long term and I believe the team are, we’re all together on that.”

He added: “But it’s coming very quickly for us and we’re very excited about that.”