This week’s OTA Update leads off with stories about two of the largest OTAs seeking to diversify their offerings through the addition of flights. As each of these travel platforms continues to evolve and seek to add more products and services, it won’t be long until there will be little to differentiate them. Enjoy.
Booking.com Takes Off (Literally)
(“Booking.com Launches Flights Through Partnership Across Europe,” Skift Travel News on Oct 15, 2019)
As further evidence of Glenn Fogel’s planned evolution of Booking.com into a full-service travel platform, Booking.com rolled out this past week standalone flight offerings to travelers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. Travelers previously seeking airline tickets in these countries (and still today in other locations) were re-directed to sister metasearch site, Kayak, where travelers were then re-directed to other OTAs or the airlines themselves for booking. Now, travelers in the eight listed countries can book flights directly on the Booking.com website/application through Swedish travel partner eTraveli (though some travelers are re-directed to eTraveli’s site Gotogate to complete the booking.)
This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update features a number of stories on recent changes at Google with regard to the way in which it displays vacation rentals and the market’s response to those changes. Enjoy.
“Alexa, find me tickets to…” Destinations Go Vocal
("How destinations might soon have a voice via Amazon and Google," Phocus Wire on Oct 11, 2019)
Meet Simpleview. The UK-based digital agency that specializes in the tourism industry is building (beta version is expected by year end) one of the first destination-focused applications for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. When finished, the application will allow users to search third-party destination information (e.g., activities, dates and times) via their voice-activated devices.
Welcome to our inaugural issue of Foster Garvey’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update. On October 1st, the combination of Garvey Schubert Barer and Foster Pepper into the new Foster Garvey became effective. The combined firm now boasts 180 attorneys in 6 offices – Seattle, Spokane, Portland, New York, Washington D.C. and Beijing. Personally, I’m thrilled to have played a small role in bringing these two long-standing firms together and excited by the prospect of having twice the resources to better serve our hospitality and travel clients. Details about the combined firm are available at www.foster.com. More to come....
As for the Update, it was a relatively quiet week on the distribution front as opinions and viewpoints regarding the recently announced Expedia/Marriott agreement continue to roll in. What this agreement might ultimately mean for the industry is unknown, but as other distributors and bed banks race to offer hoteliers “similar” intermediary services, there is definitely a wholesale shakeup on the horizon.
Travel Industry Pricing Practices Garner Singapore Regulator Attention
("Online travel sites' drip pricing can raise competition issues, Singapore antitrust agency says," MLex Insight on Sep 30, 2019)
Following completion of its recent investigation into Singapore’s online travel industry, the Consumer and Competition Commission of Singapore (CCCS) released last week its findings and proposed guidelines. The investigation identified four widely used practices by online travel providers that raise consumer protection concerns: (1) drip pricing, (2) pre-ticked boxes, (3) strike-through pricing and (4) pressure selling tactics that lead to a false sense of urgency (many of these same practices led to the recently proposed “principles” in the UK). In an effort to address some of these concerns, the CCCS report contains proposed price transparency guidelines, including mandatory inclusive pricing (all mandatory fees and charges must be included in the headline price). A copy of the CCCS report and proposed guidelines, which remain open to public comment through October 21, can be found here.
Consumer protection concerns are a re-occurring theme in this week’s Update.
Proposed Legislation Targets Resort Fees
("House Bill Would Halt Undisclosed Resort Fees," Benzinga.com on Sep 27, 2019)
This past Wednesday, House members Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced the Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019. The federal legislation (a copy of which is attached) requires advertised room rates to include all “required” fees (other than taxes). Violations of the Act are deemed to constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices under the FTC Act and subject to FTC enforcement. Given our current political climate, it is doubtful this legislation will ever go far.
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.