eBay Travel Cuts to the Chase

Online auction site now gives agents an opportunity to sell travel products

By: Robert Carlsen

Having your travel products accessible to 55 million potential customers may be like Internet heaven.

eBay Travel, launched in the first quarter of 2001, has been reaching out to the travel agent community and, by all accounts, it seems to have developed a good relationship, said Meena Ravella, general manager of eBay Travel in San Jose, Calif.

“Entrepreneurial travel agents respond really well to our platform,” she said. “They like the fact that they have complete control over their sales and their customers.”

Ravella, who said she regularly calls travel sellers to make sure the system is working for them, said she has been getting great feedback, some of which is the result of eBay’s international reach.

“An agent told me that he had a great deal to the Bahamas, but that his local clientele was all tapped out,” she said. “So he lists the trip on eBay and sells it in one day to a guy from Portugal.”

While eBay is known as an auction site, travel agents on eBay Travel, however, have several options: They can sell auction-style over three-, seven- or 10 days, with the highest bid becoming the sale price; they can sell the travel immediately in an auction-style format, or they can set a fixed price and wait for a buyer.

Ravella reminds agents that eBay customers want deals, so agents should offer products that they can afford to discount substantially. Also, she suggests bundling segments into packages, such as offering a resort stay, tickets to a sporting event and a rental car.

To use the site, Agents must register on ebay.com, then wait for verification from a company called Square Trade.

Agents will have to provide agency names and ARC and/or IATAN numbers. They can design their own sites, which should include product descriptions and photos.

Buyers can purchase and pay agents directly or they can use the eBay Pay Pal system.

The site’s pricing structure combines a listing fee and a final value “success” fee.

Listing fees can be as much as $3.30 for products costing $200 or more.

The formula for final value fees is a bit more complicated.

If the final sale price of the product is $25 or less, the final value fee is 5.25 percent of the closing price. If the final sale price is $25 to $1,000, the value fee is 5.25 percent of the initial $25 plus 2.75 percent of the balance.

And if the closing value is more than $1,000, the final value fee is 5.25 percent of the initial $25, plus 2.75 percent of $975, plus 1.5 percent of the balance.

An eBay example indicates that, for a travel product listed at $100 and selling for $500, the total fees would be $16.58 or 3.3%.

A survey conducted online in July found that nearly 60 percent of all eBay users purchased leisure travel in the preceding six months and that 30 percent spend more than $1,500 a year on leisure travel.

Agents who have specific questions about eBay Travel can e-mail info@ebaytravel.com.