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Posts tagged Online Travel Agencies.

This week’s Update features a variety of stories, including updates on CWT and Booking.com. Enjoy.

CWT Tests NDC
(“CWT Launches NDC Initiative,” July 22, 2022 via Travel Weekly)
Corporate travel platform, CWT, recently announced plans to pilot an NDC offering that would allow travel advisors to book NDC content from Air France-KLM and Singapore Airlines. Amadeus and Sabre will power the new content rich offerings. Advisors using the platform will have access not only to traditional corporate discounted rates, but additional unique content like paid seats, excess baggage and carbon offsets. CWT expects to offer additional airlines later in the year. While we’ve written in the past about major airlines’ efforts to make NDC content available to the major GDSs, this is one of the first examples of that content now making its way into the hands of travel advisors. 

With the Fourth of July holiday falling on Monday, last week was a relatively slow week in the online travel industry. Enjoy.

Booking Holdings Poised for a Rebound?  
(“Booking Holdings Stock Down 25 Percent in 2022, What's Next?,” July 8, 2022 via Forbes) (subscription may be required)
Forbes thinks so. At $1,788 per share (off its last high of $2,461) and with 2022 booking trends continuing to look positive, Booking’s stock may be ready for a significant rebound (as high as $2,328 according to Forbes). Forbes is estimating total revenue for the current fiscal year to top $16.3 billion, which would be a 49 percent year-over-year improvement.

Like prior weeks’ Updates, this week’s Update features stories on the growing phenomenon of fintech and its effect on the travel industry. Enjoy.

Dissatisfaction With Expedia Directors
(“Do Travel Agents Matter in Online Travel? Expedia Thinks So,” June 22, 2022 via Skift (subscription may be required)
Skift recently featured an interesting article describing apparent shareholder dissatisfaction with certain of the online travel giant’s board members. The dissatisfaction (expressed through withheld votes in connection with Expedia’s recent annual shareholders’ meeting) was focused on board members Chelsea Clinton, Craig Jacobs, Dara Khosrowshahi and Beverly Anderson. While there isn’t any information detailing the reasons for the withheld votes, Skift speculates it may relate to shareholder concerns with executive compensation, depressed share price or even the political views of the targeted board members.

This week’s Update features stories on Hopper and its latest fintech offering, Agoda’s new “eco” oriented discount program and Expedia Group’s Peter Kern’s summer travel plans (watch the video). Enjoy.

Leave Anytime: Hopper’s Latest Offering
(“Hopper Will Let Customers Pay a Fee to Leave the Hotel After Check-In for Any Reason,” June 7,2022 via Skift) (subscription may be required)
Don’t like your hotel or the room you received? No problem. Hopper has a solution. Hopper announced its latest fintech offering, which allows guests in exchange for a fee paid to Hopper at the time of booking, to leave their hotel at any time for any reason following check-in. Guests electing to leave their original hotel can then book an alternative hotel with Hopper covering the costs. Hopper estimates the price for this new option to average $30.00. Hopper claims that it will pay the fees and charges owed the guest’s original hotel, though one can foresee a future where Hopper becomes a formidable adversary disputing hotel charges on behalf of their allegedly disgruntled guests. With this latest announcement, Hopper also announced the expansion of several of its existing offerings, including the expansion of its cancel for any reason product into hotels and its price freeze product into rental cars.

This week’s Update features two stories detailing fintech’s growing influence on online travel. Regular readers of our Update know that we’ve featured a number of fintech and payment related stories this past year, with multiple stories on Hopper, Booking.com and its much discussed payment platform, Visa, and others. And if you need any further proof of the growing influence (or likely future influence) of payments on online travel, one only need to review the list of regular readers of our online travel blog on JD Supra, which reads like a who’s who of the payments world – American Express, Capital One, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. I hope you enjoy this week’s Update.

Musafir Partners with Mastercard to Launch Innovative Payment Options
(“UAE-Based OTA Musafir Signs with Mastercard,” May 27, 2022 via Business Travel News)
Three weeks ago, it was Agoda announcing its partnership with Visa. Last week, Dubai-based online travel agent Musafir announced its own exclusive partnership with Mastercard. According to the announcement, the parties will work together to “digitize payment flows,” launch new innovative payment products and provide expense management tools for Musafir’s corporate customers. Musafir claims to be the region’s first O.T.A. with 1800 businesses participating on its business booking platform.  For more details on the growing influence of fintech products on online travel, make sure to read the story below from Wit, detailing Amadeus’ recent Travel Fintech Investment Trends 2022 report.  

Last week’s Update features a variety of stories, including updates on several platforms that we don’t routinely cover – Kakao, Agoda and Trip.com. Enjoy.

Kakao Expands Ride-Hailing Offerings
(“Kakao Mobility Partners With Splyt to Expand Transportation App,” May 13, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
Last week, South Korean mobile platform Kakao announced a new partnership with Splyt, which will expand the platform’s ride hailing services to seven additional Asian countries. Users of the app can access taxis, private cars and motorcycles. Users of the expanded app will also have access to a variety of payment platforms, including micro payments.

With earnings season upon us, it was difficult to limit this week’s Update to just 12 stories. For those of you seeking a deeper dive into the latest on online booking platforms, Expedia Group and Booking Holdings I encourage you to take a look at the Expedia Group and Booking Holdings call transcripts. Enjoy. 

Expedia Updates
(“Expedia Unveils New Strategy,” May 6, 2022 via Hotel Business)
(“Expedia Group Revenue Jumps 81 Percent as Travel Recovery Continues,” May 2, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
(“Expedia Group Revamps Marketplace, Tech Platform as Part of New Strategy,” May 4, 2022 via Phocus Wire)

Last week not only saw the release of Expedia’s first quarter earnings report, but also the hosting of Expedia’s annual partner conference – this year titled Explore. Here are my key takeaways from this past quarter’s earnings release and reported Explore highlights:

    • While Expedia’s quarterly financial performance still lagged behind 2019, recent months (starting with February) have exceeded same month comparisons to 2019.

    • Traveler demand is returning stronger than ever, despite the emergence of COVID variants, the war in Ukraine, inflation, etc. In CEO Peter Kern’s words, the recovery “seems too strong to be held down.” Demand is also starting to return across multiple segments, including CBD business and business travel.

    • VRBO continues to enjoy unprecedented success, performing now at levels above 2019. Supply constraints remain a concern, particularly in key markets.

    • Expedia’s B2B business (most notably, Optimized Distribution) continues to gain traction (particularly with the recent enrollment of IHG) and is now a major focal point for Expedia’s future growth. Expect increased interest in enrolling supplier partners of all sizes in Expedia’s B2B program.

    • When discussing Expedia’s latest quarterly marketing investments, Peter referred repeatedly to efforts now focused on developing longer term relationships with its travelers and the “lifetime value” of such travelers. According to Peter, “the industry has been very transactionally focused and we haven’t been great historically at measuring lifetime value...” Sound familiar? Sounds like Peter may have stolen a page or two from hoteliers’ song books on the real value of direct channel bookings (and their associated investments) versus the “transactional” bookings often sourced through third party online channels.

    • At last week’s Explore event, Expedia launched its new technology platform, Expedia Group Open World. This new platform will allow partners of all shapes and sizes to contribute products, services and content to the overall traveler experience.  Expedia also revealed its new reimagined marketplace, which, among other things, will now rank individual hotels (which ranking then affects display and sort order) by a new guest experience score – which takes into consideration guest reviews, customer service interactions, etc. And in a nod to Hopper and its incredible success these past few years, Expedia is also launching a price predictive tool that will allow users to track historical and anticipated future rate changes for both air (today) and hotel rooms (later this year).

Last week was all about loyalty as we saw a number of stories on the new roles that technology and online platforms are playing for hoteliers seeking to update and expand (or even launch) their loyalty programs. We include three of those stories in this week’s Update. Enjoy.

Technology Powers Loyalty Program Growth
(“IHG introduces new loyalty program,” April 13, 2022 via Hotel Business)
 (“Tech is powering the new look of hotel loyalty programs,” April 16, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
(“Fintech to Help Smaller Hotel Brands Like Selina Launch Rewards Cards,” April 13, 2022 via Skift) (subscription may be required)
This week, we feature three separate stories detailing the important role that technology (and online platforms) is playing in updating existing and launching new loyalty programs.

    • In recent weeks, both IHG and Accor have announced major updates (in the case of IHG, a complete overhaul) to their loyalty programs. In the case of IHG and its new IHG One Rewards program, the program is centered on IHG’s mobile application and now allows members to customize the rewards they receive through another online platform, Milestone Rewards. The newly constituted program, including Milestone Rewards, is expected to be available in June. Accor also recently announced changes to its loyalty program Accor Live Limitless (ALL) through a new partnership with online entertainment platform Fever, which will allow members to use their loyalty program benefits to book a variety of activities and experiences.
    • Lastly, Skift explains how fintech startups are allowing smaller hotel and travel companies (Selina) to launch new co-branded payment cards (to boost their fledging loyalty programs) in under a month. In Selina’s case, its planned card will feature cash rewards for signing up, loyalty program points and cash rebates for hotel stays. 

What a week it has been watching the horrible events unfold in Ukraine. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Ukraine or with family in Ukraine.  

Booking Holdings Fourth Quarter Earnings Call
(“Booking Holdings Inc. (BKNG) CEO Glenn Fogel on Q4 2021 Results - Earnings Call Transcript,” February 23, 2022 via Seeking Alpha)
As promised, for those of you interested, attached is the transcript from the recent Booking Holdings’ earnings call.

Effects of Recent Egencia Acquisition Start to Unfold at Amex GBT
(“Egencia Adds Amex GBT Negotiated Airfares to Booking Platform,” March 2, 2022 via Business Travel News - Top Stories)
Egencia has announced that discounted airfares previously available to customers through Amex GBT are now available to users of the Egencia platform. Just a friendly reminder that as distribution channels and platforms continue to evolve (through mergers, acquisitions, and other activity), one can never be certain where his or her inventory may appear.

This week’s Update includes two stories detailed Booking Holdings’ recent earnings release and a surprise story regarding Google’s hotel booking platform. Enjoy.

Google Shutters Book on Google
(“Book on Google for hotels to shut after low take-up,” February 25, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
Citing low usage by both suppliers and users, last week, Google announced that it was shutting down its “Book on Google” feature on May 25. The facilitated meta search platform (my phrase) allowed users to begin the booking process on Google (reservations and payment details) and then complete the booking on the supplier’s (hotelier or OTA) website. The announced changes should have no effect on Google’s hotel search products, including the free booking links implemented last year.

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Greg Duff
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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