|OTA battle hots up as Kathleen Tan takes over at AirAsia Expedia.|
Tuesday, 8th January 2013
Source : Yeoh Siew Hoon
As tweeted recently, AirAsia Expedia (AAE), the joint venture between AirAsia and the Expedia group, has appointed Kathleen Tan, AirAsia’s group commercial head, as chief executive officer.
Tan (right) replaces Dan Lynn, who was moved in from Expedia to head up the joint venture when it was signed on March 29, 2011 and heralded a game-changer at the time. Her appointment signals yet another shot in the battle of the OTA space that will heat up in Asia in 2013.
Talk that a top-level change was imminent at the joint venture had been doing the rounds for the last couple of months amid speculation that both AirAsia and Expedia were considering the next steps on how to push the business along amid the increasingly intense competition in the OTA space in the region.
While Lynn’s forte has been in “getting stuff” done – something he professed a passion for in talks at a Web In Travel event – it is clear the two brands now want to take the joint venture to a level where it can compete with global competitor, Priceline Group, and regional brands such as MakeMyTrip (which bought Hoteltravel.com), Webjet (which bought ZUJI) and Wotif which has also brought in new ammunition in the form of new CEO Scott Blume.
Under Lynn’s watch, the joint venture has launched sites in various markets including Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. He also saw the launch of Backick, touted as the world’s first hotel booking site where friends help pay for each other’s travel. The team also moved into brand new offices in Singapore, distinguished by its bright yellow Expedia colours.
The move to put AirAsia’s marketing powerhouse Kathleen Tan at the helm of AirAsia Expedia shows serious intent by the two companies to put more muscle and weight behind the joint venture and perhaps a recognition that you need someone with deep Asian experience to execute such a challenging enterprise – this at a time when the AirAsia Group itself is rapidly expanding and Tan was instrumental in building up the airline’s brand and sales as commercial head.
Effective immediately, Tan will oversee the Expedia brand, AirAsiaGo, and Backick online travel agency (OTA) businesses in South-east Asia, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
In a press statement, Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia group president and chief executive officer said, “We are thrilled to have a business leader of Kathleen’s caliber join the AirAsia Expedia joint venture. She has an impressive track record in building AirAsia into Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier over the past eight years, and we are delighted to have those skills brought to the AirAsia Expedia joint venture. Furthermore, her substantial knowledge of Asia’s travel landscape and proven business acumen will be immensely valuable in taking AAE to future heights.”
Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer said, “Kathleen came to Malaysia not knowing anything about aviation, but her determination has led her to overcome every challenge and today she holds the pulse of Asia’s travel market. As AirAsia progress towards the second decade of success, we feel comfortable in letting Kathleen move to AirAsia Expedia.
“Our focus for the next five years is ancillary and adjacent business. The potential of AirAsia Expedia is enormous. Having Kathleen driving the business gives me huge encouragement and I am sure AAE and the OTA industry will escalate tremendously when Kathleen gets to work her unique style of brand-building, sales and profits growth” he added.