Booking Holdings, Expedia Group and...Kiwi?
("Online Travel Agency Kiwi Has a Plan to Fight the Giants," Skift Travel News, October 18, 2018)
Conventional wisdom says that start-ups in the online travel agent space will never make it far because of the absolute dominance of established platforms, Booking Holdings, Expedia Group, etc. Kiwi, a Czech Republic based startup, may be proving otherwise. Through a combination of superior guest service, currency arbitrage, diverse demand generators, powerful partnerships and just plain luck, Kiwi is making a name for itself. This past year alone (2017) it processed airline bookings with a gross value of over $925 million. This year it expects to earn over $200 million in revenue. Whether Kiwi can continue its luck streak remains to be seen, but Kiwi is definitely a name to remember.
Google recently updated its trademark policy, and although some believe the changes are cause for concern, citing increased costs per click, that may not be the case. The following aims to bring some clarity to the issue.
Google has consistently expanded its Google Ads policy in allowing trademark keyword bids and the use of trademarked terms in the text of advertisements. The tech giant has always expanded these policies by regions, and just last week, Japan was added to the mix.
Expedia Expands Its Voice-Activation Résumé
("Expedia Brings Voice Bookings, Cancellations and Rewards to Google Assistant," Skift Travel News, October 9, 2018)
It was less than two years ago that we featured Expedia’s introduction of limited functionality (or “skill”) for Amazon’s Alexa devices. Now, Expedia is bringing far more robust functionality to devices powered by Google Assistant. According to Expedia, this new functionality will allow travelers to search hotels and book (or cancel) reservations and access and use their Expedia loyalty program accounts. Although this new functionality will debut for U.S. travelers in English only, additional languages are planned. If you have not already done so, it may be time to update those keyword and negative keyword contract provisions.
Another relatively quiet week in the world of distribution.
Hopper Is Poised for Growth
("Hopper Raises $100 Million More for Airfare and Hotel Rate Prediction," Skift Travel News, October 3, 2018)
We brought you our first Hopper story back in January following its announced launch of Hopper Hotels. The predictive pricing based booking platform was back in the news this past week with its announcement that it had closed a $100 million Series D round of financing (at a valuation of $750 million). According to Hopper, the investment will fund adding market managers in key international markets to secure more direct airline and hotel inventory. Bucking the trend of predictive analytics travel companies before them (think Farecast), Hopper is one of the few booking platforms to successfully leverage its airfare and hotel room rate pricing analytics as a differentiator among other online booking sites.
And You Thought Today’s Health and Safety Requirements Were Tough
("China Prepares Unprecedented Online Tourism Regulation," Stories, September 28, 2018)
Those of you who have negotiated online travel agency agreements likely recall the dreaded “Health and Safety” provisions mandated by most online travel agencies. As proposed, these provisions allow online travel agencies to reach deep into participating hotels’ operations to evaluate the hotels’ preparedness for handling health and safety emergencies. Those provisions are likely to get much tougher – at least for those of you with properties or other operations located in China. According to a report issued by Bloomberg last week, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism is poised to issue sweeping new regulations targeting online travel agencies and platforms. According to Bloomberg, the new regulations would require online travel providers to “improve rescue and emergency plans, better vet and manage their on-ground service providers, purchase liability insurance and protect clients’ personal information.” The regulations are likely to take effect later this year following a mandatory 60-day public comment period.
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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.