United backs new holiday travel site.

Miller Freeman is setting up a web site for the consumer holiday market, one of the web’s most crowded sectors, saying ”no-one will do it as well as us”.

Miller Freeman is setting up a web site for the consumer holiday

market, one of the web’s most crowded sectors, saying ”no-one will do it

as well as us”.



This bold statement came from UK executive director Neil Thackray, who

said Miller Freeman’s focus-group research showed that none of the current

online travel suppliers had ”significant brand equity”.



”We’ve started this project by asking people exactly what they want,” he

said. ”Our research shows that big offline brands tend to be forgotten

online as being just real-world brands.”



This view flies in the face of conventional wisdom on web branding. Alexa

Clark, marketing director of Thomas Cook Interactive, said: ”Brands really

are still important. E-commerce sites need a level of trust. You only have

to look at the amount that new players have to spend promoting their

brands online and offline to see just how important they perceive it to

be. Customers want a proven track record. They have to know who they’re

dealing with.”



Despite its apparent disregard for established online travel brands,

Miller Freeman has one undeniable advantage in entering this market - the

offline marketing clout of its parent, United News and Media, including

The Express, The Star and TV channels Meridian and Anglia.



The site (www.utravel.co.uk), will launch in the autumn and have strong

editorial content led by former Travel Trade Gazette Europe editor Claire

Foot. ”This site is about finding your dream holiday, not just a flight,”

said Thackray. ”It should feel a bit like wandering around a travel

agent’s shop.”



Unusually, it will not offer online buying for most products on offer.



There will be transactional facilities for flights, but most holiday

buying will be completed by phone. Consequently, transactional revenue

will be a minor part of the site’s business plan. Sales-based revenue will

be its mainstay.



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