Technology

“There’s enough room for all players”: Expedia

Hannah Edensor

With the battle between travel agents and OTAs a constant rivalry, Expedia’s Senior Director, Oceania, Drew Bowering, has seemingly waved the white flag.

Talking exclusively with Travel Weekly, Bowering said Expedia by no means had a monopoly over the industry.

“Globally, the Expedia group made up only around six per cent of the total travel market in 2016,” he revealed.

“There’s more than enough room for all players to respond to the growing demand for packages.

This stems from a previous opinion from MTA MD Roy Merricks, who said OTAs and agents can co-exist, despite the raging competition between the two industries.

But in an interesting twist, Bowering talked to the advtanges of booking packages through Expedia and other OTAs.

The more complex bookings and packaged deals have long been the domain of agents, who are often preferred for these three and four-tiered trips that go beyond just booking flights.

“Travellers choose OTAs for many different reasons – we expose them to a much broader range of options than they might be able to source themselves,” Bowering told TW.

“Packages offered through OTAs give travellers an unparalleled ability to compare a wide range of products in a single place.

“We’re investing in the development of our package product; we’re now offering our best-in-class dynamic, packaging technology to multi-property partners.

“We’ve seen a healthy 15 per cent year-on-year rise in package demand to Australia, indicating that package demand is appealing to both the increasingly time-and budget-savvy traveller, and the luxury travellers, who each want to get the most out of their trips abroad.

“Unlike dedicated single-supplier websites, OTAs with package offerings give travellers the ability to efficiently compare a wide range of products in a single place.

“An OTA like Expedia enables comparison shopping within a particular segment (air, hotel or car rental), allowing travellers to save time and money when they combine multiple products.

“Interestingly, we’ve discovered there is a marked difference in the way consumers are booking packages, as opposed to standalone bookings. For example, we are seeing a trend in packages being booked earlier, generating longer length of stays and having lower cancellation rates as compared to  standalone bookings.

“As the hotel component in a package booking is commonly linked to a non-refundable flight, packages have lower cancellation rates than that of a hotel-only booking.

“One of the strengths we bring to the market is that we empower smaller players such as independent hoteliers to distribute their product on a global basis to a global audience, building a richer travel ecosystem for everyone.

“Hotels are always looking for new ways to drive demand – and packages have been a solid vehicle to do just that.”

“The US$1.3 trillion global travel market is huge and rapidly growing but increased fragmentation has made customer acquisition more challenging,” Bowering added.

“Our multi-product, multi-platform strategy positions us as a global full-service travel company, great for consumers and hotel partners.”

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