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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.

This week’s Update leads with an important Data Privacy Update from Eva Novick, the newest member of our firm’s privacy and data security team. If you currently operate a loyalty program (or plan to introduce one soon), I encourage you to read her important update. Enjoy.

The Travel Industry’s Push on Climate May Have Legs
(“Hotelbeds lays out eco and social initiatives, joins Amazon Climate Pledge,” February 11, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
For some time now, we’ve all seen the many surveys of would be travelers (particularly, younger travelers) detailing the importance of the environment and climate change in today’s travel decisions. Our weekly Update has recently featured a number of stories about this trend, including the recent launch of online platforms offering travelers carbon neutral travel. Last week, Spain-based bedbank, Hotelbeds, released its annual Environmental, Social and Government Report in which Hotelbeds claims it has again (for the fourth year running) attained carbon neutral status  through a combination of carbon reductions and offsets. At the same time, Hotelbeds also announced that it has joined Amazon’s Climate Pledge, which features companies committed to eliminating their carbon emissions to zero by 2040. So what does this really mean? Will efforts like these mean enough to travelers to actually drive bookings or market share? With Hotelbeds feeling the heat from increased competition in its wholesale space (think Expedia EPS and soon, Priceline’s equivalent offering), Hotelbeds is “banking” on it.

Julie Eisenhauer is a guest author and a CPA at Clark Nuber PS.

Revenue is an important indicator of a hotel property’s financial health. It is used to analyze and interpret financial results using key industry operating metrics ( i.e., average daily rate [ADR] and revenue per available room [RevPAR]).

Revenue may also drive the calculation of certain costs, such as management fees, franchise fees, capital improvement reserves, marketing fees and business taxes, as these are often calculated based on a percentage of revenue. As a result, owners and operators need to be aware of changes coming in financial reporting standards related to revenue recognition effective January 1, 2018 (public companies) and January 1, 2019 (private companies).

I’m pleased to introduce guest author Sam Engel, from BrandVerity. BrandVerity provides services that detect online brand and trademark abuse for a variety of industries including hospitality. Sam spoke recently to members of our Hospitality, Travel and Tourism team at our monthly meeting. We’re grateful that Sam has offered to now share his experience and knowledge with our readers. Welcome, Sam, and thank you for today’s post. – Greg

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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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