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Posts from June 2023.

This week’s Update features a wide variety of stories, including two on the growing influence of fintech products and their suppliers:

    • Google and TikTok Out as Travel Planning Tools?  A recent survey of U.S. travelers by travel publisher Matador Network (and owner of AI powered travel assistant, GeekGuide) revealed that more than a third of travelers intended to use AI to research or plan travel. 
    • Buy Now, Pay Later Becomes Save Now, Buy Later.  Online travel agent, CheapOAir, has launched new fintech tools that allow travelers to save for future travel purchases on the online platform (a/k/a layaway).  Users of the new tool can receive cash incentives of up to 6%.  Fintech company, Accrue Savings, powers the program, and amounts deposited will be insured through Blue Ridge Bank. 
    • Additional Details Emerge Re Regulators Concerns Over Booking Holdings’ Planned Purchase of ETraveli.  Since late 2021, we’ve been covering Booking Holdings’ planned purchase of European online platform ETraveli.  EU regulators expressed concern late last week about the effect of the planned purchase, specifically with regard to hotels as Booking’s growing market position among competing online platforms would lead to higher costs for hotels and ultimately consumers.    

Have a great week everyone.  We will be offline next week as I head out to Toronto for HSMAI’s week of events.  I hope to see many of you there. 

This week’s Update features a variety of stories, including an update on the major online booking platforms’ latest quarterly marketing efforts. Highlights include:

    • Big Three Spend a Combined $3.5 Billion on Marketing in the First Quarter.  Booking Holdings, Expedia and Airbnb spent a combined $3.5 billion on marketing during the first quarter of 2023, almost a billion more than the same period in 2022.  When measured against quarterly revenues, Expedia’s quarterly marketing spend was the largest (63% of quarterly revenue) with Airbnb spending the least (just 25% of quarterly revenue).  Rival Booking Holdings spent 39% of its quarterly revenue. 

    • Priceline is the Latest Online Platform to Announce Implementation of AI.  This past week, Priceline announced it was partnering with Google Cloud to implement generative AI into multiple areas of the platform’s business.  The planned integrations will be both consumer facing (e.g., a conversational AI powered chatbot to assist users in creating itineraries and selecting accommodations) and internal (e.g., a marketing platform that develops copy and images for use across the company’s channels).  Priceline is only the second travel platform to announce its use of Google’s AI products as the majority of announcements to date by online travel platforms have been for OpenAI, the makers of ChatGPT.

    • Capital One Continues to Expand its Travel Platform.  Capital One announced this past week that it was acquiring online concierge company, Velocity Black, which will expand the financial institution’s ability to offer experiences to its growing user base. 
    • Expedia’s AI Advantages Short Lived.  Readers of our Update might remember recent statements from Expedia Group’s Barry Diller claiming that Expedia had an advantage over its competitors in the adoption of AI, in part, because OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, was a member of Expedia’s board.  Any advantage that Sam’s presence on the Expedia board might have provided was relatively short lived as Sam announced this past week that he was stepping down from the Expedia board. 

For the first time, our weekly Update delves into the world of artificial intelligence (AI).  We’ve tried for several months now to avoid joining the chorus of voices proselytizing about the likely effects of AI, but as the reality of AI starts to set in and its potential uses become more apparent, it is impossible to avoid.  Expect to see more stories in the future on AI (and its likely legal implications) as curated by my colleague and contributor Erin Snodgrass.  I hope you enjoy.

    • Priceline’s New Head of Accommodations Outlines Her Plans for the Future.  Priceline’s new Senior Vice President and Head of Accommodations, Traci Mercer, shared her thoughts about the future of the little sibling in a recent interview with PhocusWire.  Highlights from the recent interview include:
      • 2023 marks Priceline’s 25th year anniversary
      • North America, particularly, the United States is Priceline’s current top priority for growth
      • From a supplier perspective, both Priceline and Agoda will continue to work together – at least in North America
      • Priceline Partner Solutions (Priceline’s B2B offering) will remain a growth opportunity as Priceline seeks to leverage its recent acquisition of Getaroom
    • Expedia Calls Out Agoda’s Abusive Discounting Practices.  While we’ve grown accustomed to suppliers’ complaints over the years about the business practices of online distributors, it has been unusual to see online distributors questioning the practices of their competitors.  In a recent interview, Expedia’s CEO, Peter Kern, openly questioned Agoda’s discounting practices and characterized Agoda as “one of the worst when it comes to this sort of rate abuse.”  Historically, Agoda has acknowledged and even embraced these practices (in the name of the consumer) making clear that it will do everything it can to source any available discounted rates – including via wholesalers, whose practices, Agoda maintains, could always be better managed by their supplier partners.

    • Hotel Distribution Trends to Watch.  We’ve included in this week’s Update a recent report from IHG’s Andrea Daniels summarizing the recent thoughts and predictions of HSMAI’s Global Distribution Advisory Board regarding the future of hotel distribution. 

    • Add Hilton to the List of Hoteliers Targeted in Texas for Their Resort Fee Practices.  Just weeks ago, we detailed Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton’s newest resort fee disclosure claims against Hyatt (following quickly on the heels of his announced settlement with Marriott).  Now, we can add Hilton to the list of hoteliers targeted by the Attorney General.  Many questioned whether the Attorney General’s own political and legal troubles (including a possible impeachment) might slow his solitary campaign, but, at least for now, those troubles do not appear to have any real effect on his approach to resort fees. 

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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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