Viator to Expedia: Copying not best form of flattery By Dennis Schaal / December 09, 2004 Share 1 -- SAN FRANCISCO -- Viator, a provider of information and booking services for attractions and sightseeing tours, is miffed that Expedia is copying some of its ideas. CEO Rod Cuthbert used the word "plagiarism" when describing the text of Expedia's Activities section.He added that the range of products in Expedia's Activities area is "similar in all respects to those found on the Viator site."Regarding the wording, Cuthbert alleged that Expedia's "Why Book Early" text parrots Viator's "Why Book Ahead" section, which has been posted on Viator.com since mid-2003.For example, the Viator site says: "Popular tours sell out well in advance." Expedia.com says: "Popular activities sell out quickly." Viator says: "Save vacation time!" And Expedia says: "Don't waste vacation time figuring out what to do.""I'm happy Expedia is taking advantage of Viator's original thinking," Cuthbert said. "But it's just a little embarrassing for them, I reckon, not being able to have an original thought."An Expedia spokesman said "there are only so many words you can use to say 'Why Book Early' and so many reasons you can list for doing so.""Inventory is inventory," he added. "We strive to have everything we can in our store to sell to consumers." Viator, an Australian company with U.S. headquarters in San Francisco, partnered with Expedia for eight months in 2000 and 2001 but was dropped in September 2001 when Expedia launched its own destination-product solution."It was a build vs. buy decision," said an Expedia spokesman, adding that Expedia has a history of testing a market through partnerships. "We wanted to launch quickly so we partnered with them and later developed our own in-house team to develop the technology and source the inventory."Viator, meanwhile, is focusing on online distribution and merchant deals with travel Web sites, having gradually phased out a program of dealing with agents.It dropped out of the GDSs in 2003 and closed its agent-only Web site earlier this year.Cuthbert told TravelWeekly.com the agent site "was never very well used, a symptom of the fact that generally agents don't book our type of products on behalf of their clients."He said retailers are still welcome to book Viator products at the consumer Web site at www.shop.viator.com and add a service fee.For major partners like Orbitz, Priceline and Hotwire, where the option to book Viator inventory is in their booking paths, Viator uses the merchant model and gives partners net rates.To contact reporter Dennis Schaal, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.