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Posts from February 2021.

This week’s Update features a number of stories highlighting last week’s Skift Online Travel and Distribution Summit, as well as Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s incredible impact on Marriott and its view on online travel. Enjoy.

A Tribute to Marriott’s Arne Sorenson
(“Marriott’s Arne Sorenson Upended Travel Distribution,” February 17, 2021 via Skift) (subscription may be required)
Last week brought the horribly sad news of Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s untimely passing. As many in the industry offered their heartfelt condolences and shared personal stories involving Mr. Sorenson, Skift Executive Editor, Dennis Schaal, offered his own unique look at Mr. Sorenson’s many contributions to Marriott’s distribution efforts. For Dennis, highlights of Mr. Sorenson’s nine-year tenure as Marriott CEO include:

    • A first of its kind for U.S. companies to debut a store-within-a store model on Fliggy’s travel distribution platform
    • White label package and later wholesale distribution agreements with Expedia Group
    • Together with other major lodging companies, the launch of a second industry-owned and operated distribution platform, Roomkey
    • And most recently, the exploration and ultimately successful launch of Marriott’s homegrown short-term vacation rental platform, Homes & Villas. Contrary to the firmly held beliefs of many of his industry peers that online travel agents (OTAs) represent everything wrong about distribution, Mr. Sorenson believed that by leveraging Marriott’s ever increasing number of properties to partner with these OTA adversaries, Marriott could better avail itself of the many tools and other benefits that the OTAs could provide.

For readers who have been following our Online Travel Updates since its inception, we thank you for your continued support. In this year of 2021, June will mark our six-year anniversary of publishing these weekly updates dedicated to keeping our readers up-to-date with legal, regulatory, and market and industry trends related to the online travel space. We hope you continue to find them informative and helpful as the online travel industry keeps evolving.

This week’s Update includes several stories spotlighting a few Expedia Group companies – Expedia, Trivago and Vrbo. We’ve also included another story on the so-called “digital health passports.” Whether you agree with their use or not, we suspect the passports will be part of travel (and life) for the foreseeable future. Over the past several weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time with clients considering the role of COVID-19 testing, the pros and cons of offering testing to guests as an onsite amenity, and how best to leverage the test results (and soon vaccination records) via the many available digital health passports. This is one part of our practice that we would have never anticipated delving into just 14 months ago. Enjoy.

Unlike our short Update last week, this week’s edition is filled with several important stories.

Have a Unique Cancellation Policy? Not
(“ changes hotel cancellation and deposit policies,” February 5, 2021 via Hotel Owner) (subscription may be required)
Last week, announced plans to limit the number and types of cancellation, and advance deposit policies that its platform will support. The change takes effect on April 6, 2021. This is not the first time has announced its own approach to cancellations regardless of the policies maintained by its hotel supplier partners.

As evidenced by our list of stories below, it was a relatively quiet week for online travel.

Tripadvisor Introduces Virtual Voice Tours for Amazon AlexaTripAdvisor
(“Tripadvisor creates virtual destination tour via Amazon Alexa,” January 29, 2021 via Phocus Wire)
Working with tourism authorities in Abu Dhabi, last week, Tripadvisor launched what it claims to be the first virtual destination voice tour for Amazon Alexa. Users in the United Kingdom can summon the voice tour by asking their Alexa-enabled device “to explore Abu Dhabi.” The voice tour is part of a larger campaign between Abu Dhabi and the review/distribution platform and, according to Tripadvisor, the feature will be made to other destination partners.

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About the 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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