As you can see from the list of stories, it was a relatively quiet week in the world of online travel, with Booking.com garnering most of the attention. From my perspective, as Booking.com gets closer to delivering on Glenn Fogel’s vision for a “connected trip” (accommodations, air, activities, diverse payment platform), Booking.com will soon become the dominant player in online travel. Enjoy.
Booking.com Expands Experience Offerings
(“Booking.com Taps Klook to Broaden Experiences Offerings,” October 4, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
Last week, Booking.com announced that it had entered into a strategic partnership with tours and activities platform, Klook. The partnership will soon allow users of Booking.com to access and book tours and activities in 175 cities across 30 markets. The announcement comes on the heels of similar prior activities additions by Booking.com (Viator and Musement in 2021 and 2020, respectively) and its sister company, Priceline (Musement in 2022).
This week’s Update includes stories on fintech’s continued growth and rumors regarding Sabre’s possible future. I hope you enjoy.
More Platforms Turning to Fintech Products to Foster Growth
(“Ixigo, Amadeus Latest to Add New Fintech and Payment Options,” September 16, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
Indian travel app, Ixigo, and Amadeus both recently announced plans to adopt new payment tools to their booking platforms. Travelers booking air travel on Ixigo will now be given the opportunity to purchase “flexible” tickets that allow travelers to change their flight (dates of travel, airline and destination) and pay only the difference in fares. This new tool, Ixigo Flex, will supplement Ixigo’s current offering, Ixigo Assured, which allows travelers to cancel a flight for any or no reason at any time. Amadeus announced plans to partner with fintech providers, Uplift and Fly Now Pay Later, to offer supplier partners and agencies the opportunity to provide travelers a new buy now pay later option.
It’s earnings season, and this week’s Update for the week ending August 5, 2022, is focused on recent quarterly releases from Booking Holdings and Expedia Group. I’ve also attached second quarter earnings call transcripts for Airbnb, Expedia Group and Booking Holdings. I’ve not had a chance yet to dive into the transcripts, but I will share anything I find interesting in next week’s Update. Enjoy.
Uber Travel Launches in the UK
(“Uber Travel Launches First in the UK With Trains and Buses From Omio,” August 3, 2022 via Skift) (subscription may be required)
Over the past few months, we’ve included a few stories about Uber’s interest in growing beyond a ride-hailing application. This next Wednesday, select Uber users in the UK will be the first to experience Uber’s new “travel” offerings – specifically rail and bus tickets. Omio will provide the rail and bus ticket rates, itineraries and other product information. The application will automatically update users’ rail or bus itineraries whenever it learns of delays or other issues through the user of flight information mined from users’ Gmail accounts. Uber expects a broader rollout of the new offerings by the end of the month.
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 a variety of stories, including updates on Sabre’s attribution sales efforts and the growing importance of Booking.com’s mobile application in the U.S. Enjoy.
Sabre Moves Forward With Attribution-Based Sales
(“Sabre on Hospitality Marketplace Development, Attribute Selling,” June 14, 2022 via Phocus Wire)
For some time now, clients have complained that Sabre’s (and other GDS providers’) innovation efforts have largely been focused on airlines, leaving hoteliers to fend for themselves with the old legacy GDS platforms. According to Sabre, that “airline-first” approach may soon change as Sabre continues its efforts to launch its new intelligent retailing platform. According to Sabre’s Senior Vice President of Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Frank Trampert, Sabre’s new platform will allow hoteliers to create personalized offers like those found on traditional retail websites (e.g. Amazon). Hotel rooms will remain central to the platform, but other ancillary amenities and services will be available for booking at the same time. This month, Sabre plans to introduce 23 features as part of the platform’s initial product test. Pilots of the platform will begin in October with a general release of the platform scheduled for early 2023.
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 continues the theme of providing updates on a few lesser known distribution platforms – this week we feature Latin American distributor, Despegar, and Central and Eastern European distributor, the Szallas Group. Enjoy.
Jury Supports U.S. Air Claim That Sabre Monopolized the Airline Booking Industry, But…
("Sabre Illegally Monopolized Airline Ticket Booking Market but U.S. Airways Gets Just $1.00 in Damages, U.S. Jury Concludes," May 19, 2022 via MLEX Insight)(subscription may be required)
A N.Y. federal court jury found last week that Sabre used exclusionary conduct to maintain its monopoly in airline distribution to the detriment of U.S. Air, BUT (and it is a large, BUT), the jury also found that Sabre did not unreasonably restrain trade and that U.S. Air was entitled to only $1.00 in damages. Recall that this was the second trial in this matter, with the first resulting in a $15 million award against Sabre. The original award was overturned on appeal, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding similar two-sided platforms (both supplier facing and travel agent facing). What this decision and the $1.00 award might mean for Sabre (or those airline or hotel suppliers currently contracting with Sabre) in the future, are unknown.
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.