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This week features a heavy dose of Booking Holdings’ updates, including updates on the story we featured last week regarding Hungary’s recent decision to launch a formal investigation into the country’s online travel industry.  Enjoy.

    • AI Trip Planners Are Everywhere.  While we all have read stories detailing the major booking platforms’ adoption of generative AI for trip planning (some of those stories have been featured in our weekly Update), smaller AI powered niche planners are now popping up everywhere.  This past week, Skift featured three new planners – Troupe (short term rentals), GenixGPT (“hidden gems”) and JetAI (private plane charters).  What’s obvious is that not all of these planners will make it - fall out is inevitable.  What will be interesting to watch is how many, if any, will be acquired by the major booking platforms.

    •’s Payment Delays – Part II.  Last week we featured a story detailing the decision by the Hungarian competition authority to open an investigation into the country’s online travel booking industry, driven in large part by Hungarian hoteliers’ multiple complaints regarding delayed payments (room rate less commission) via’s payments platform.  Apparently, the problem was a little more widespread than just Hungary (affecting hoteliers throughout Asia), may have dated as far back as April of this year (and continued through the heavy tourist seasons for many) and may have even affected commission payments to members of Booking’s affiliate network (though Booking claims these delays were part of planned maintenance of its systems).  Meanwhile, back in Hungary, Hungarian officials raided the Budapest offices of on Wednesday (September 6) as part of its ongoing industry investigation.   

This past week (the unofficial end to summer for many of you) was a relatively busy one in the world of online travel. Highlights include:

    • EU (Unofficially) Kills Booking Holdings’ Planned Purchase of eTraveli.  For weeks now, we’ve been providing updates on Booking Holdings’ planned purchase of air booking platform, eTraveli.  While the European Commission has until September 27 to issue its final ruling, sources indicated late last week that the Commission was prepared to veto the purchase.  Sources close to Booking have stated that Booking plans to appeal any final veto.

    • Add Sonesta to the List of U.S. Hotel Companies Being Sued Over Resort Fees.  Last week Hyatt, this week Sonesta.  According to Travelers United, the consumer advocacy group that brought both the Hyatt and Sonesta class actions claims, more lawsuits against more companies are coming.  This latest suit against Sonesta focuses both on Sonesta’s alleged failure to provide total pricing (rate and mandatory fees) early in the booking process and Sonesta’s combination of taxes and fees in later disclosures.  As the list of hoteliers implementing total price on their websites and mobile applications grow (see additional story on Hyatt, Marriott and MGM changes), it will be interesting to see how these lawsuits evolve. 

    • Delayed Payments Leads to Hungarian Investigation of Online Booking Industry.  Last week, Hungary’s Competition Authority announced the launch of an accelerated inquiry into the online booking industry, and in particular, whether competition among industry members may have been distorted by’s payment platform’s delayed payments to accommodation providers.  According to local news stories, was several weeks delayed in making payment to multiple accommodation providers in the month of July – after announcing and then missing a series of promised payment deadlines.  July payments were ultimately made by mid-August.  The largely unexplained delay resulted in 28 complaints being made to the Competition Authority alleging the wrongful withholding of fees. 

This week’s Update features a variety of stories, including the latest news on the new cottage industry of resort fee litigation and Amazon’s growing (yet understated) significance in the travel industry. Enjoy.

    • Hyatt Faces Class Action Over Resort Fees.  Late last week, consumer advocacy group, Travelers United, filed a class action in Washington D.C. superior court over Hyatt’s alleged resort or destination fee practices.  This lawsuit is the latest in a string of lawsuits brought against hoteliers (e.g., Hilton and Hyatt) and OTAs (Booking Holdings) over their alleged failure to properly disclose mandatory fees.   
    • Amazon’s Growing Understated Influence in the Travel Industry.  Thought you knew everything about Amazon’s pursuit of the travel industry? Think again.  While many of us get caught up in Amazon’s latest efforts in Indian rail passes or virtual tour offerings, Amazon has been quietly growing its role in the travel industry – largely through its cloud computing offering, Amazon Web Services.  Amazon’s cloud customers include Travelport, ATPCO, Lonely Planet, Ryanair and  In fact, AWS and have formed a joint innovation lab focused on, among other things, flight business, hotel business and artificial intelligence. 

This week’s Update features two stories on Booking Holdings’ pending acquisition of eTraveli, which remains under EU review.  Enjoy

  1. Booking Holdings’ eTraveli Acquisition Remains Under Review.  It’s been a few weeks since we last updated the status of Booking Holdings’ long proposed acquisition of flight platform, eTraveli.  With the month of August rapidly coming to a close, it is crunch time for both Booking Holdings and the EU Commission regulators who are scrutinizing the proposed transaction.  Regulators are expected to issue their decision at the end of the month.  Regulators have expressed concern that the transaction will further cement’s dominant position in the EU, particularly for hoteliers.  In response, Booking has recently proposed offering users who book flights on a “carousel” of hotel options – featuring hotels available not only on, but other platforms as well.  While some speculate that sister-company Kayak might be source of this alternative hotel inventory, it isn’t clear yet where the additional inventory might be sourced (e.g., competing hotel platforms, hotels’ own booking channels, etc.).

  2. Hopper Launches Hopper Cloud for Airlines and Announces First Airline Partner.  On Wednesday this past week, Air Canada announced that it was partnering with Hopper to offer passengers booking on Air Canada’s website the option to purchase policies allowing them to cancel their flights at any time for any reason on eligible fares.  Hopper referred to the new partnership as the launch of Hopper Cloud for Airlines, extending the full array of fintech products and services to airline partners. 

  3. Major Accommodation Platforms Increase (Again) Quarterly Sales and Marketing Spend.  It has been a refrain often repeated in our weekly Updates.  Another quarter, and another quarter of increased spending by the major accommodation booking platforms on sales and marketing.  While spending increased for each of the big three platforms (Airbnb, Expedia and Booking) for various reasons, all three were quick to point out the growing percentage of bookings coming through lesser expensive direct channels – loyalty programs, mobile applications, etc.    

It was another relatively quiet week in the industry other than news late this past week that the Texas AG had filed suit against Booking Holdings over its platforms’ deceptive display of resort fees. Some highlights from the past week:

Takeaways from Expedia’s Latest Quarterly Update.  I’ll let those much smarter than me comment on Expedia’s quarterly financials.  Items that caught my attention in reviewing the earning’s call transcript (copied) included the following:

  1. Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.  Expedia CEO, Peter Kern, could not say enough about Expedia’s recent launch of its combined loyalty program, One Key, and the value of a robust loyalty program.  Loyalty has clearly become a key focus of Expedia for the near term.  During the second quarter, Expedia enjoyed its highest number of active loyalty members – up 15% percent year over year.  Peter Kern estimates that the program now has 70 million members.  The One Key program offers users multiple tiers of program membership, with each progressively higher tier enjoying greater discounts.  Discounts are funded by supplier partners (not by Expedia (unlike    
  2. B2B Business Continues to Grow.  The strength of Expedia’s B2B program drove Expedia’s record gross bookings for the second quarter.  Revenue for Expedia’s B2B business grew 32% YOY in the second quarter.  Expedia announced two new B2B business partnerships this past quarter – Mastercard and most recently, Walmart. 

Takeaways from Booking Holdings’ Latest Quarterly Update.  Here are my takeaways from the latest quarterly earning’s update. 

  1. Disparate Uses of Generative AI.  Booking Holdings’ use of artificial intelligence varies by platform – all in an attempt to ascertain the most beneficial use of the emerging technology.  Priceline employs generative AI in the form of “Penny,” a travel assistant that is intended to assist travelers at the “end-of-the-funnel” while making their booking.  In contrast,’s use of the technology is at the “top-of-the-funnel” to assist users in their initial trip planning.  Kayak, unlike its sister companies, is currently exploring the use of AI internally for coding and other similar purposes. 
  2. Alternative Accommodations Continue to Grow.  Approximately 34% of all room nights were with alternative accommodations.  Global listings of alternative accommodations reached 7 million at the end of the quarter (an 8% increase YOY).
  3. Mobile Application Use Continues to Grow.  Approximately 48% of all room nights were booked through Booking Holdings’ mobile applications in the second quarter (a 6% increase YOY). 
  4. Payments Platform Grows.  Approximately 48% of’s gross bookings were processed through’s payments platform (versus 38% in the second quarter 2022). 

Texas Attorney General Files Suit Against Booking Holdings.  “Duped”  “Misled” and “Deceived”  - All three words appear in the Texas AG’s recently filed complaint against Booking Holdings to describe Booking’s offending conduct.  Similar to previous complaints filed against Hyatt and Hilton, this latest complaint targets Booking’s failure to include mandatory fees in the rates displayed on its websites.  Even when the fees are finally disclosed at checkout, the small font and inconspicuous placement of the disclosures make them unlikely to be seen.  According to the complaint, Booking further misleads consumers by grouping mandatory fees together with taxes in a single line item “Taxes and Fees” at checkout.  The complaint not only highlights the effects of Booking’s practices on Texas consumers, but also on Booking’s “honest competitors” that are put at a competitive disadvantage by appropriately including mandatory fees in their displayed prices (the complaint points to recent settlements with Marriott and Omni and Marriott’s total price displays).  We will continue to monitor and report on this case as it moves forward.

After several slow weeks in the industry, this past week featured a number of important updates, including earnings releases and calls from Booking Holdings and Expedia Group.  Transcripts from the two companies’ earnings calls are attached.  Enjoy.

    • Expedia Scores a Win with Walmart + Travel.  While Expedia may have lost an important relationship with its recent termination of Hopper, Expedia was able to make up for some of that lost B2B traffic with a newly announced partnership with Walmart.  According to the companies’ announcement, Expedia will be providing the retailer with hotel, airline, rental car and activities inventories.  Walmart members who use Walmart to book travel will receive Walmart cash (up to 5% for hotels) back.  Users of Expedia’s B2B platform (or any other similar B2B platform) should give some thought as to how changes like the recent Hopper termination and now Walmart addition might affect their traffic through the platform and their performance against any contracted performance metrics.

    • AH&LA Voices Support for Proposed Federal Resort Fee Legislation.  By now, most everyone is familiar with recent federal legislation proposed by U.S. Senators Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Moran (R-Kan.).  If you’ve not read the proposed legislation, click here to view an early initial draft.  To many pundits surprise (several suggested that hoteliers would never get behind the legislation), the American Hotel & Lodging Association has come out strongly in favor of the Act.

    • Expedia Group and Bookings Holdings Enjoy Strong Second Quarters.  Both Expedia Group and Bookings Holdings reported strong second quarter results last week.  Even with record levels of gross travel bookings in the second quarter, Booking Holdings expects that it may see even better results later this year (based on July hotel booking activity that represents a 20% YOY increase). Expedia also enjoyed a record breaking quarter (gross bookings and revenue), though revenues fell short of analysts’ expectations.  Earnings calls provided insight into a number of ongoing initiatives within both companies, including ongoing B2B efforts (Expedia), the launch of a single, unified loyalty program (Expedia), the introduction and use of Artificial Intelligence (both) and the connected trip (Booking). 

This week’s Online Travel Update is below.  With summer now in full swing, it is no surprise that last week was another relatively quiet week in the online travel world.  Speculation continues around the Expedia / Hopper termination and the possible fallout for the entire online travel industry.  For those of you interested in learning more about the recent split, we’ve included a link to Skift’s recent podcast on the issue.  Enjoy.

    • Sabre Records Win in Competition Between Major CRS Platforms.  Hyatt announced last week that it was partnering with Sabre for its new central reservation system to be rolled out in 2024.  Hyatt’s selection of Sabre breaks the long string of victories by Sabre competitor, Amadeus, which has previously announced similar CRS platform deals with IHG, Marriott and MGM.    
    • Expedia Cuts Staff in Several Departments.  Word began to spread (unofficially) last week that Expedia had laid off staff across multiple departments (including IT, support, recruiting, marketing and B2B services) affecting Expedia’s offices in the United States and abroad.  In response to inquiries, Expedia stated that the layoffs were part of the company's ongoing reprioritization and simplification of its resources.  Expedia would provide no details on the number of employees impacted. 

FinnairThis week's Online Travel Update is below.  As evidenced by the number of stories in this issue, it was a busy week in the online travel world, ending with what appeared to be a distributor dogpile on competitor Hopper.  Enjoy.

    • Expedia Terminates Hopper; Kayak Joins Scrum.  Thursday’s industry headlines were dominated by news of Expedia’s termination of its hotel and vacation rental supply agreement with industry upstart Hopper (and by extension, its many white label B2B partners, including Capital One). While Expedia attributed the termination to concerns over consumer “confusion and anxiety,” Hopper and industry pundits were quick to point to Expedia’s likely growing competition concerns.  Sensing blood in the water, Kayak’s CEO, Steve Hafner, gratuitously jumped into the fray supporting Expedia’s decision to terminate.  Suppliers that rely on Expedia as their exclusive B2B distribution platform (or that are considering such a relationship in the future) must ask what such a termination might mean for them as a potentially important channel is terminated.   

    • TUI Unveils Package Offerings.  Travelers in the UK have a new (old) hotel booking option.  In June, European tour operator, TUI, known historically for its travel packages, launched a standalone platform in the UK.  By the end of the year, TUI expects to have over 30,000 hotels available on the platform for standalone bookings (together with bookings of other individual travel components).  Suppliers, it is time to review those existing tour operator agreements.     

    • Priceline Partners with Amazon for Prime Day.  While Booking Holdings has partnered in the past with Amazon to offer Amazon’s prime members discounts or other special benefits, Priceline’s partnership with Amazon to provide Prime members special U.S. Prime Day discounts is a first. 

    • Finnair Concedes to OTA Discounts.  In response to an ongoing investigation by the Swedish Competition Authorities, Finnair has agreed to no longer restrict how OTAs advertise and sell discounted flights on their websites.   Whether this decision by Finnair is instructive as to how competition authorities might view similar efforts by hoteliers (whose relationships with OTAs are considerably different than airlines’) remains to be seen. 

This week’s “vacation edition” Update features only two stories, the subjects of which have been featured in prior Updates. We will be back with our regular Updates next week!

For those of you in the U.S. and Canada, happy Independence Day. This week’s Update features a number of important legal updates – both in the U.S. and in the EU.  The next 6-9 months should prove to be interesting as the EU moves forward with the implementation of its new digital legal framework – the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA).  I hope you enjoy.

    • FTC Identifies Possible Competition Concerns with Generative AI.  This past week, the FTC published a blog post detailing its view of potential competition concerns with generative AI.  Key building blocks identified by the FTC for the successful use and implementation of generative AI (and all favoring large industry incumbents over new industry participants) include (1) data, (2) talent and (3) computational resources.  Identified areas of concerns include a number of “industry standards” seen with prior emerging technologies – control of critical inputs, bundling and tying of products and services and exclusive dealing.  Here we go again.

    • First Fraud, Now Chargebacks.  Having heard firsthand this past week while at HSMAI’s events in Toronto of hoteliers’ growing frustration with chargebacks, I wasn’t surprised by the results of Outpayce’s (Amadeus payments business) recent survey of travel executives, which, among other things, detailed the travel industry’s growing chargeback challenge.  According to the survey, over two thirds (71%) of the respondents have seen an increase in chargebacks with 33% experiencing a growing number of chargeback disputes over the past year.  According to the survey, respondents attributed the increase to a number of factors - (1) consumers view that the chargeback process is easier (thanks in part to mobile banking apps) than refunds and (2) consumers’ increased awareness of chargebacks generally. 

    • Designated a “Very Large Online Platform” Under DSA.   As many wait to learn’s fate under the DMA (i.e., whether will be designated a “Gatekeeper”), it is important to remember that has already been designated a “Very Large Online Platform” (VLOP) under the DSA.  Back in April of this year, the EU Commission announced its decision that satisfied the 45 million monthly active user threshold to be designated a VLOP.  Why is this important?  First,’s designation as a VLOP may be a telltale sign of its pending gatekeeper designation.  Second, recent events may provide some indication as to how might challenge (and ultimately delay) its VLOP designation or possible future gatekeeper designation.  Late last month, German online retailer Zalando, also a recent VLOP designee, filed suit appealing its designation, arguing that its unique hybrid model (combining both retail and platform businesses) caused it to fall well below the 45 million user threshold.  What effect Zalando’s claims might have on its designation or its eventual compliance with the many VLOP content requirements is unclear, but we may soon see other designees – – following Zalando’s example.

For those of you who attended HSMAI’s events this past week in Toronto, it was great seeing so many of you at Monday’s roundtables.  I hope each of you got as much out of our sessions together as I did.  Have a great week.

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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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