The Adrian Loveridge Column – Online Booking Agents Are the Disruptors
It’s now almost impossible to comprehend that only 25 years ago, Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) did not exist. Today these third party booking platforms dominate the entire travel industry in almost every aspect of supply and service.
Of the various entities that stand out is the Expedia Group, originally founded as a division of Microsoft in October 1996 before being spun off in 1999 and then ‘acquired’ by a number of successive entities over the subsequent years. While the name Expedia is instantly recognizable for many, the group is made up of a large number of associated and owned companies all playing their part in the overall success of core business including Travelscape, Vacationspot, Classic Custom Vacations, Hotwire, Car Rentals.com, Cruise Ship Centers, Egencia, SilverRail, Hotels.com, Trivago, Wotif, Travelocity, Orbitz, Egencia, Cheap Tickets, Traveldoo and Home Away.
The company’s mission statement is ‘Expedia Group drives incremental demand and direct bookings to travel suppliers, provides advertisers the opportunity to reach a highly valuable audience of travel consumers, powers travel bookings for some of the world’s leading consumer brands and gives travel agents direct access to one of the broadest selections of travel products and services anywhere’.
HomeAway which Expedia acquired in 2015 for US$3.9 billion is one of the main rivals to Airbnb and according to sources boasts over one million alternative lodging listings across 190 countries.
Interestingly, HomeAway has recorded the largest growth of any of the many corporate divisions in recent times, reflecting the overall demand for alternative accommodation experiences and the increasing trend by consumers trying to secure better value for money.
In reality this means they have a product that covers every possible holiday accommodation requirement spanning over every conceivable market demand.
As one of Expedia’s own staff recently and graphically explained was that while Expedia offers the big box, or larger hotel choices, you can also book a self catering option or intimate bed and breakfast property within the same or associated company.
It is probably one of the best examples of a truly integrated corporation or as they artistically describe it on their website ‘the world’s travel platform’.
More recently, a new division called Local Expert has entered the market offering 25,000 plus activities in over 1,000 destinations involving over 4,000 worldwide local partners, allowing holiday makers to research and book various attractions and activities prior to arrival.
Their massive marketing and promotion machine highlights our tourism offerings to a level of exposure that individual partners could seldom dream of experiencing in paid advertising.
The Expedia Group currently has a trading value of US$16.84 billion.
How important are they to our tourism sector?
Well, according to media reporting they are ‘The single largest producer of business to the island (Barbados) for all markets combined’, so would it not be foolhardy not to work constructively with them?