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It was a relatively quiet week for the distribution industry. Enjoy.

Family Travel Club Launched in the Midst of a Pandemic
(“Online Family Travel Club Launched by Wall Street Journal Alums Unbowed by Pandemic,”
Jul 20, 2020 via Skift Travel News) (subscription may be required)
This past week saw the launch of The Expedition, a subscription-based online travel platform focused on families. Founded by two former newspaper and magazine editors (Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure and TIME), the newly launched platform will feature travel content and discounted services and products, and provide subscribers an interactive network of travel industry professionals and travelers focused exclusively on family travel. 

It was a relatively quiet week on the distribution front. This past week, Airbnb garnered a lot of attention from the usual suspects and the not so usual…Enjoy. 

Tripadvisor Continues Its Rapid Evolution
(“Tripadvisor Is a Media Business So Why Did It Unload These 8 Brands? Jul 17, 2020 via Skift Travel News) (subscription may be required)
Over the past weeks, we’ve featured stories on Tripadvisor’s many staff reductions, financial re-structuring, focus on quality over quantity and now, the disposition of eight of its media companies.With little fanfare, Tripadvisor announced this past week that it had disposed of Smarter Travel, Airfarewatchdog, BookingBuddy, OneTime, Oyster.com, Family Vacation Critic, What to Pack and Holiday Watchdog. All eight companies were acquired by travel marketing company, Hopjump.The sale is seen as part of Tripadvisor’s broader media shift that includes, among other things, a focus on B2B advertising and the advertising of products and services outside of travel.

Several themes emerged in this week’s stories, including the bullish return of short-term rentals and the continued direct booking efforts by airlines and the metasearch sites seeking to serve them. Enjoy. 

Vrbo Hitting Its Stride
(“Vacation Rental Brand Vrbo Emerges as Expedia Star With Pandemic-Era Bookings,” Jul 6, 2020 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required); “Expedia’s Vrbo vacation rental business sees ‘significant’ growth as travel giant aims to cut costs,” Jul 6, 2020 via GeekWire)
For several weeks now, we have featured stories on the purported v-shaped recovery of the short-term vacation rental market. Does such a recovery represent a short-lived phenomenon or a seismic shift in travelers’ accommodation preferences in the post-COVID world? It is probably too early to tell, but Expedia’s announcement this past week only adds to the debate. Last Monday, Expedia reported that its rental platform Vrbo had increased its gross bookings year-over-year in the months of May and June. Expedia attributes Vrbo’s success to the platform’s largely whole-home inventory in drive-to destinations, which only months earlier had been viewed by many in the industry as a weakness. Vrbo’s success took place a month before Expedia began consolidating its two major rental platforms – Vrbo and Homeaway. Despite Vrbo’s success, gross bookings across the Expedia family of brands were down 45 percent in June (which is an improvement over the 85 percent decline experienced in March and April). 

Perhaps it was Canada Day or the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but last week was relatively quiet in the distribution world. Enjoy.

Radisson Hotel Group Hotel BedsRadisson Partners With Hotelbeds

(“Radisson Hotel Group Partners With Hotelbeds,” Jun 29, 2020 via Hotel Business)
Last week, Hotelbeds announced that it had entered into a preferred partnership with Radisson Hotel Group through which Hotelbeds will distribute “preferential” or “special” rates and inventory of 1,100 Radisson hotels through Hotelbeds’ network of 60,000 trade-connected wholesale and retail (travel agency) channels. Hotelbeds has been actively promoting this “full-service” intermediary role for some time now, particularly following Marriott’s announcement regarding its new Expedia partnership.

In this week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update, we cover TripAdvisor’s busy week, including the announcement about its new travel advisor referral service, Reco. Enjoy.

Say Goodbye to HomeAway
(“Expedia Group to Retire HomeAway U.S. Brand,” Jun 24, 2020 via Hotel Business – News)
Recently, Expedia announced that it was consolidating its short-term rental brands HomeAway and VRBO. Starting next month, users of the HomeAway website will be re-directed to VRBO, and users of the HomeAway mobile application will be directed to download and use the VRBO application. With the consolidation, Expedia will now focus its efforts and resources on a single short-term rental brand. The consolidation makes good on commitments made earlier this year by Barry Diller and others as part of the Expedia senior management overhaul.

HousekeepingNot a moment too soon, Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards on Tuesday provided mandatory employee notice posters for hotel worker protections that take effect Wednesday, July 1. Seattle hotels must post these notices immediately.

Four sweeping new ordinances affect Seattle hotels with 60 or more guest rooms. The ordinances require panic buttons for employees, set maximum housekeeping workloads, require larger hotels to fund employee healthcare coverage, and offer employees greater job security. (Read Foster Garvey’s prior coverage of these ordinances.)

This week’s Update contains a number of stories on the growing significance of metasearch, particularly as properties compete for the attention of even fewer travelers. However, we begin this week’s Update with a story on EDreams, which has been successfully growing its subscription-based travel model. Enjoy.

EDreams Subscription Model Adds Hotels
eDreams(“EDreams Now Has a Half Million Paying Travel Subscribers,” Jun 17, 2020 via Skift Travel News)
Since November, EDreams’ Odigeo has added 50,000 members to its subscription services, bringing its total membership to close to 500,000. Although the Barcelona-based online travel agency began with flights only, the service has now expanded to include hotels (adding 2.1 million hotels since November). For those of you unfamiliar with the service, EDreams’ two brands – Edreams Opodo and GO Voyages – offer members travel discounts in exchange for their annual membership fees. Faced with the pandemic’s many challenges, EDreams is currently running a promotion offering new members a free six-month trial subscription. It will be interesting to see whether this service (or others like it) gains enough traction to warrant parties’ re-examination of existing rate parity commitments and their limited exceptions.

After weeks of Updates detailing the disastrous effects of COVID-19 on the lodging industry, this week’s Update includes stories on (potential) signs of an industry recovery. I hope you enjoy.

Despegar Presses Ahead with Planned Best Day Purchase
(“Despegar Agrees to Revised Terms in Acquisition of Best Day Travel Group,” Jun 11, 2020 via Business Wire Mergers & Acquisition News)
Following its mid-April announcement that it was re-evaluating the previously announced purchase of Mexican distributor Best Day, this past week, Despegar announced that it was moving ahead under newly negotiated terms, including a revised purchase price and payment terms. With its purchase of Best Day, Despegar will further solidify its position as the leading Latin American online distributor.

We cover the gamut of distribution topics in this week’s Update – OTAs, GDS, search, short-term rentals and wholesalers. Enjoy.

Is OTA Supremacy Undeniable?
(“Online Travel: Can Anyone Challenge The Supremacy Of Booking And Expedia?” Jun, 2020 via Hospitality Net - Latest Industry News)
Similar questions have been asked frequently across the industry as pundits, analysts and experts have warned that the struggling lodging industry is destined to repeat its post-9/11 practices of effectively turning over control of its room inventory to online distributors. Several of this week’s stories look closely at this issue and try to answer the question of whether hoteliers are bound to repeat history or will perhaps use this opportunity to forge a new path.

This week’s Update again features more stories than usual. With so many in the lodging industry using the current downturn as an opportunity to question “business as usual,” we want to be as inclusive as possible. Enjoy. 

Trip.com Offers Some Good News and Some Bad News
(“Trip.com Group Highlights Signs of a China Travel Rebound Despite a Sobering Outlook,” May 28, 2020 via Skift Travel News)
Trip.com’s recent first-quarter earnings release offered a little something for everyone. The optimists will point to the reported increases in domestic travel within China and South Korea, and the unexpected strong performance in the luxury segment. The pessimists will point to Trip.com’s dismal first-quarter earnings (operating loss of $211 million compared to an operating profit of $123.7 million a year earlier), projected $153-$181 million operating losses in the second quarter and the non-existent international travel market. Despite the daunting task ahead, Trip.com CEO, Jane Jie Sun remains optimistic and expects to continue the company’s focus on domestic leisure travel in the near term.

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Greg Duff
Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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