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Posts from April 2024.

As you can see from our short list of stories below, it was a relatively quiet week in the online travel world.  I hope you enjoy:

    • DerbySoft Moves Into Airline Industry.  Hotel distribution connectivity provider, DerbySoft, announced plans last week to acquire China-based Pkfare.  Pkfare provides connectivity services for hotels similar to DerbySoft, but also provides those services to approximately 600 airlines (an industry that DerbySoft has not yet penetrated).  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  The companies plan to maintain their independent businesses, with certain back of house functions integrated. 
    • Expedia Exploring Sponsored Listings for VRBO.  The same sponsored listings (a/k/a advertisements) that Expedia and Hotels.com feature today on their respective websites may soon make their way to VRBO.  In a recent interview, Rob Torres (SVP of Media and Affiliate Solutions at Expedia) identified the listings as something he’d like to change at VRBO.  Airbnb does not currently provide an advertising platform on its site.   
    • Additional Thoughts on Recently Announced Expedia and Amadeus Partnership.  Last week we included the recent announcement by Expedia and Amadeus regarding their newly expanded technology relationship, an expansion that will allow Expedia to offer Amadeus’ New Distribution Capability (NDC) content.  By moving away from the decades old technology offered by the major GDS providers to NDC, Expedia will soon be able to offer its users many of same products and services offered through airlines’ own channels – seat selection, pre-flight services and onboard products and services. 

This week’s Update features two stories from local (Seattle) publications.  The first, from Seattle’s most well-known technology newsletter, Geekwire, provides a local perspective on Steve Singh’s ongoing efforts to create the corporate traveler’s  “perfect trip.”  The second, from our local Business Journal, provides additional details on the management shakeup at Expedia Group.  Enjoy.

    • EU Launches Investigations of DMA Gatekeepers.  This past month, the EU Commission has launched five investigations into gatekeepers’ (Alphabet, Apple and Meta) alleged non-compliance with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).  One of the two investigations of Google parent, Alphabet, focuses on whether Google’s recent changes continue to prefer its platforms and channels (particularly around travel) over those of third parties.

    • Seattleite Steve Singh Leads Investor Group’s Purchase of Direct Travel.  Former Concur CEO, Steve Singh, and other investors announced this past week the purchase of Colorado-based corporate travel management company, Direct Travel ($300 million annual revenue and 1800 employees).  Following the purchase, Singh will serve as the company’s executive chairman, a role he also serves with other corporate and group travel players, Spotnana , Center and Troop (all of which plan to partner with each other in the future).  The purchase is the fourth piece (of five total) in Singh’s effort to build the “perfect trip.”  According to Singh, the fifth and final piece will focus on tools to better manage hotel inventory and bookings.  Stay tuned.

    • Expedia and Amadeus Announce NDC Partnership.  Expedia and Amadeus captured much of the industry’s attention this past week with their announced 1-year technology partnership under which Amadeus will provide much of its NDC content to Expedia, allowing Expedia to offer travelers additional supplier products and services (e.g., airline seat selection). 

This week’s Update features multiple stories and perspectives on AmexGBT’s newly announced acquisition of CWT and Booking.com’s decision to drop its own sustainability ratings.  I hope you enjoy.

    • AmexGBT Set to Acquire Rival Travel Management Company CWT.  First the details . . .  According to AmexGBT CEO, Paul Abbott, the $570 million acquisition will allow AmexGBT to grow its corporate customer base by 4000 customers and will increase AmexGBT’s transaction volumes and revenues by 45% and 33%, respectively.  Other announced benefits include growth in certain key customer segments (energy, resources, marine and media, among others) and growth in AmexGBT’s small and medium sized enterprise (SME) business (a focus historically for both AmexGBT and CWT).  Increased automation and the leveraging of the AI technologies behind CWT’s myCWT platform are also among the other proposed benefits.  So what does this proposed merger between travel giants mean for others in the travel industry?  What about Expedia (which currently owns 16% of AmexGBT and has a 10-year lodging supply agreement with AmexGBT) and Booking.com (whose corporate travel program is a current partner of CWT and powers CWT’s SME business)?  Will the combined company only source inventory through one major OTA?  Only time will tell.  For direct travel suppliers, the additional leverage will make historically challenging negotiations even more difficult.   
    • Booking.com Drops “Travel Sustainable” Program.  Following criticism from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), Booking.com announced last week that it had removed its Travel Sustainable accommodation scores from its booking platform.  According to the ACM, Booking.com’s presentation of the program was misleading and wrongly gave travelers the impression that travel is sustainable.  Booking.com now intends to rely on third party certification programs and will provide properties a label when they have received a third-party sustainability certification.
    • DOJ and FTC File Statement of Interest in Algorithmic Price Fixing Case.  This past week the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission filed a joint statement of interest in a pending case against major casino hotel operators alleging that the operators violated U.S. antitrust law by agreeing to use a third party computer pricing algorithm to set room prices.  According to the agencies, hotels cannot use algorithms to engage in conduct that is otherwise illegal if done by a real person.  The statement clarified two important aspects of U.S. anti-trust law as it relates to the use of pricing algorithms.  First, claimants do not need to prove that competitors spoke directly, particularly when an algorithm provider that works with the competitors is alleged to be acting in concert.  Second, an agreement among competitors to use a pricing algorithm is unlawful, even if the competitors retain some pricing control.  This isn’t the first time that one or both agencies have intervened in cases involving pricing algorithms.  In recent cases involving the real estate industry and meat processing industry, the agencies challenged competing firms’ use of pricing algorithms.  A copy of the agencies’ joint statement is linked to our story below.

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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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