Expedia to Launch New Tablet App


The old guard of travel companies – Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz – have seemingly been in a holding pattern since the late 1990’s when it comes to technological innovation.  These companies were slow when it came to moving to mobile, and have also been slow when it comes to redesigning “outdated” websites.

Now Expedia is taking a major step and one that it hopes will capture more travelers and make searching for travel accommodations a less industrial experience and a more sensual one.  The company previewed its new tablet app, which focuses on striking, large scenic visuals, at a recent launch event in San Francisco. Continue reading

The Future of Travel: Millennials


Millennials represent the next prized demographic for the travel and hospitality industries.  This group, made up of those individuals age 18-34, is looking for an experience, and may not be satisfied with a standard hotel stay.  To millennials, personalization is a great way to develop brand loyalty, and a one of a kind experience is the golden ticket to repeat business for your property. Continue reading

Travel Trends: Metasearch is the Future


Metasearch is one of the hottest trends in the travel industry today.  It’s so hot that Skift, a leading travel industry news leader, released a report detailing what is coming next for the travel industry in terms of metasearch.

Why is Metasearch so Hot Right Now?
According to a DataFox, travelers made on average 21 visits to different travel websites before finally booking a trip, with many reporting that it was extremely tedious and time-consuming.  Continue reading

The Next Step in OTA/Metasearch Convergence


Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have taken the travel and hospitality industries to a new level over the past decade,  but in recent years there has been a shift towards convergence of OTAs and metasearch engines.  Metasearch engines, like Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Hipmunk, have traditionally shuttled users to OTAs or air/car rental sites white it came time to complete their bookings.

In essence, the metasearch engine was the means for getting to the ultimate endpoint of the OTA.  Forward thinking companies like Expedia and Priceline utilized this stream of production to their advantage by acquiring their own metasearch engines.  Expedia Inc. controls Trivago and the Priceline Group owns Kayak.

Companies like Orbitz, Travelocity, and CheapOair are considered metasearch “paupers” according to a recent Skift article, but Orbitz Worldwide CEO Barney Harford sees things differently, and last year he boasted that his company did not need to make a speculative investment and acquire a travel metasearch site.

The Orbitz Plan
While Orbitz Worldwide does not own their own metasearch engine, Orbitz.com, Cheaptickets.com, and LastMinute.com have done the next best thing.  With an assist from advertising soultions’ provider Intent Media, the three OTA sites have not integrated metasearch-like hotel pricing from competitor’s sites right beneath some of their own hotel displays.

From the hotel display, a user can click on one of the competitor’s links and navigate away to that site to make a hotel booking.

Why This Model Makes Sense
Intent Media co-founder and CEO Richard Harris says the logic behind these property price ads are that only about 5% of lookers may book something on an OTA site, and these metasearch-like ads with hotel rates enable the OTAs to monetize the users who want to comparison shop and would likely book elsewhere anyway.

OTAs have displayed similar ads from competitor’s sites before – but usually without showing the competitors’ rates.  If they displayed links to competitors, they would usually do so opening one browser at a time and without first showing any pricing.

However, displaying these opposing rates, while somewhat risky or seemingly counter-intuitive for the publishing site, earns a higher cost per click than not showing the rates because lookers are more likely to book.

To read the full Skift article, click here.

Survey: How Travelers Use Online Reviews


In June 2013, BrightLocal, a leading SEO tool provider for local businesses, released results of a survey that examined consumer consumption of online reviews and how they influence their opinions and purchases from local businesses. The study found that 79% of consumer trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Software Advice, the leading provider of detailed reviews, comparisons, and research for online hotel management software buyers, decided to take this idea decided to take this idea a step further by determining HOW travelers use online hotel reviews. Continue reading

Travel Trends: OTAs Look to Loyalty Programs


In the 1990’s, online travel agencies (OTAs) threw a wrench in the hotel booking process by allowing travelers to compare prices across multiple hotels, inspiring consumers to book rooms through third-party sources rather than directly through hotels.  These bookings sites tacked on a hefty transaction fee, but the convenience of being able to search multiple options in one place made the extra charges worthwhile for the traveler.

Fast forward two decades and there is a new trend that property owners, managers, hoteliers, and other members of the travel space should know about.  The rise of metasearch sites like Kayak and Bing – which allow travelers to not only compare prices across hotels, but also across OTAs – has intensified the rivalry between booking sites, leaving companies like Expedia and Orbitz fighting for repeat customers.

But how are these brands creating this repeat traffic?

How to Create Loyalty Among OTAs?

To match Web competitors and increase brand loyalty, “it’s in the interest of online travel agencies to keep upping the ante,” said Clem Bason, CEO of DealBase.com.

In order to influence customer fidelity, OTAs have begun branching into the rewards business with the hope that additional incentives will keep travelers from straying to other booking sites.  This is a tactic that hotels have employed for a long time.  And now, OTAs are hoping that offering a rewards program will bolster consumer loyalty, the way it did for hotels.

Potential Negatives for OTAs

Despite the fact that OTAs are trying to build loyalty with travelers and increase the number of bookings taken on their third-party sites, there could be problems that pop up thanks to programs like Expedia Rewards and Orbitz Rewards.

Much of the advertising dollars spent by hotels go towards advertising on these OTA sites, but ultimately these properties would prefer to take bookings on their own website, as opposed to the third-party OTA site.  If properties are only receiving reservations through the third party sites (and are paying commission fees ranging from 15 to 25%, then these properties will be more likely to find other advertising avenues that will direct more travelers to book directly on a property website.

Traditional Programs vs. OTA Loyalty Programs

The logic behind traditional loyalty programs is pretty basic – hotels attract repeat business by promising rewards like free stays, complimentary amenities and even frequent flier miles.  The more often a traveler stays at a hotel or with a hotel brand, the more rewards he or she will earn.  These loyalty programs generally benefit business travelers the most, as they stay more often on the company dime and apply rewards to vacation expenses.

OTAs, on the other hand, target consumers looking to rack up and redeem points more quickly than they would through a hotel program according to Expedia CMO and Senior Vice President of Global Marketing David Doctorow.  OTA program members can earn rewards by booking stays at eligible hotels, regardless of the brand they choose, allowing for increased earning potential.

To learn more about the steps being taken by OTAs to increase loyalty among travelers, click here.

HomeAway Reaches 1 Million Live Listings


With recent news swirling around the Priceline Group’s announcement that it agreed to acquire OpenTable for $2.6 billion, the travel industry now turns its focus to vacation rental giant HomeAway and whether it might be the next big prize that a Priceline, Expedia or Google might scoop up.

Skift writers Jason Clampet and Dennis Schaal sat down with HomeAway’s CEO Brian Sharples to discuss this subject, and others surround the vacation rental giant including their place in the hospitality industry, potential strategic considerations, and the future of the vacation rental space.  Here are some of the key points highlighted in the interview. Continue reading