Happy New Year! We are once again providing a roundup of some of the major developments and trends in the online travel industry that caught our attention this past year. Wishing everyone a successful 2023.
- Greg Duff
Our weekly Online Travel Update for the week ending December 23, 2022, is below. As our short list of stories highlights, last week was a relatively quiet week in the online distribution world. Enjoy.
- DOT Extends Comment Period for Proposed Rule on Airline Ancillary Fees. For those of you who have followed our updates on federal rulemaking around ancillary fees in the travel industry (both airline and hotel), you’ll recall that before the FTC announced its plans to pursue rulemaking for hotel and resort fees, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its own plans to regulate ancillary fees in the airline industry, including publishing a proposed new rule on the issue in October. At the request of several industry trade groups and associations, the DOT announced last week that it was extending the comment period for those interested in the proposed new DOT rule. With the extension, the comment period now runs until January 23.
- Phocus Wire’s Movers, Shakers and Newsmakers in Travel for 2022. As the year draws to a close, it is always interesting to read major publications’ reviews of the prior year. The online travel industry is no exception as Phocus Wire last week shared its list 2022 movers, shakers and newsmakers. From my perspective, I was surprised by both a few of the items included in Phocus Wire’s list as well as a few items omitted from Phocus Wire’s list. What do you think? Did Phocus Wire miss anyone or anything in particular? My own year-end Online Travel Update will be out next week summarizing the stories I felt were most important for this past year. I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Our weekly Online Travel Update for the week ending December 16, 2022, is below. This week’s Update includes updates and additional details on several stories we’ve featured previously, including Airbnb’s new all-in pricing and ongoing parity investigations of OTAs’ practices in Australia. Enjoy.
- Airbnb’s Adoption of All-In Pricing Is Official. Beginning this month, Airbnb users in the United States (and other countries where local laws do not already mandate the display of all-inclusive pricing) will now see prices displayed on the platform inclusive of mandatory fees and charges (e.g., cleaning fees). The all-inclusive prices will not include taxes. Beginning next year, all-in prices will be the default rates shown on the platform unless a user elects otherwise. All-in prices will be featured on listings, maps and when filtering search results. What this change might mean to hosts continued use of cleaning fees (which have been the subject of many traveler complaints) and other mandatory charges, only time will tell. How might this change affect the pricing practices other short-term rental platforms, that too remains to be seen.
- History of Australia’s Treatment of OTAs. This past week Australian news outlet, ABC, provided a helpful overview of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) history with OTAs and the new pending investigation re-examining OTAs’ rate parity requirements. If you are not familiar with how Australia has historically viewed these requirements or the new pending investigation, which many believe will result in an outright prohibition of all rate parity requirements, I encourage you to read the story.
- EY to Expand Use of Blockchain Booking Portal. Having successfully completed an initial 6-month test of its new blockchain-powered leisure travel booking portal, EY has plans to expand the portal globally and to offer hotels alongside its current air offerings. Through the portal, EY has made available to its U.S. based employees direct connections with at least 2 U.S. airlines interested in providing EY employees personalized, discount travel offers. In the weeks ahead, EY plans to expand the portal globally and to add extended stay hotel options for employees needing accommodations for longer periods for work projects. EY has already identified two hotel partners (not disclosed) that in addition to the extended stay work related offerings, plan to offer leisure content as well. While EY has no immediate plans to pursue similar direct connectivity options for its traditional corporate travel, the lessons learned by EY are sure to make an impact.
For those of you celebrating holidays this week or next, Happy Holidays.
Our weekly Online Travel Update for the week ending Friday, December 9, 2022, is below. Payments again feature prominently in this week’s Update as American Express (not to be outdone by Mastercard’s recent announcement) announces its recent investment in a growing hotel payments platform. Enjoy.
- American Express Announces Investment in Selfbook. This past week, American Express, acting through its venture capital vehicle, Amex Ventures, announced that it was making a strategic investment in hotel payments platform, Selfbook. Selfbook’s technology allows hotels to offer a one-step online checkout and payment process, which can be used to purchase a variety of products and services (e.g., hotel room, spa treatment and restaurant reservation) with a single payment. As part of its investment, American Express and Selfbook also plan to work together. Selfbook happens to be one of PhocusWire’s hot travel startups for 2023.
- Demand for Travel Insurance Products Grows. So why a story on travel insurance? As many of you know, many of today’s shiny new fintech products (which we frequently cover as part of our Update) are little more than re-titled traditional travel insurance products (new flexible “cancel whenever you want” cancellation policies = trip cancellation insurance). A recent study by Allianz Partners confirms that consistent with the extraordinary success seen by many of the newer providers of these fintech products, travelers’ interest in travel insurance is higher (much higher in the United States) now than prior to the pandemic.
- Booking Holdings to Offer Full NDC Content. Priceline announced this past week that it had reached agreement with British Airways and Iberia to feature and sell the carriers’ full NDC-enabled product offerings – flexible booking options, seat selection and bagging handling. The newly announced deal extends across the portfolio of Booking Holdings’ companies – Priceline, Agoda and Booking.com.
If you plan to be in Seattle in January for HEDNA’s upcoming conference, please let me know. I’d love to see you and show you our Emerald City.
Our weekly Online Travel Update for the week ending December 2, 2022, is below. This week’s Update features an important update on distributors’ use of so-called narrow parity provisions in Australia and takes a closer look at two of Phocus Wire’s 2023 Hot Travel Startups. Enjoy.
- Australian Treasury Re-Examines Narrow Parity Provisions. In a statement released last week, the Australian Treasury announced that it was commencing a review of distributors’ continued use of narrow (or direct channel) parity provisions. The investigation makes good on the Australian Labor Party’s campaign promise to abolish price parity clauses if elected to office. Readers of our Update will remember that Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigated distributors’ use of parity provisions back in 2016, which ultimately led to Expedia’s (but not others) voluntary abandonment of the entire practice. As part of its current review, the Treasury has circulated a questionnaire among hoteliers asking hoteliers to comment on the consequences of failing to honor the narrow parity provisions. Hoteliers have until January 6 to respond.
- Another Weekly Update, Another Story on Payments. Anyone noticing a trend here? This past week Mastercard announced it was partnering with hospitality solutions provider, Sabre, and Sabre-owned Conferma Pay, to (in their words) build new capabilities for virtual cards. As part of the newly announced deal, Mastercard is making a minority investment in Conferma. Sabre’s purchase of Conferma and this newly announced partnership with Mastercard, is part of Sabre’s longer term of goal of building an independent payment ecosystem. This latest announcement by Mastercard comes on the heels of Amadeus’ recent launch of its own payment business, Outpayce (which we covered in a prior Update), which will also include the launch of a virtual credit card.
- Hot 25 Travel Startups for 2023 – Fairlyne. Familiar with the term “re-commerce”? Although the term has been primarily used in the retail industry, Paris-based Fairlyne hopes to change that. Fairlyne’s technology allows railways, airlines and hoteliers to re-sell previously booked (but unused) non-refundable tickets and bookings. As our readers might recall, there are a number of platforms that purport to allow travelers to re-sell their booked reservations (many acting in violation of applicable booking terms and conditions), but this is the first platform we’ve seen that works directly with the suppliers to allow their travelers and guests to re-sell their reservations.
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.