What’s in store for Expedia?
By Guy Britton
MONTEGO BAY — Fresh off a $1.6 billion acquisition of Orbitz, global travel giant Expedia shows no signs of slowing down. So what about the company’s work in the Caribbean? To learn more, Caribbean Journal caught up with Demetrius Canton, director of lodging partner services for the Caribbean for Expedia group, at the JAPEX tourism conference in Jamaica.
How do you see Expedia’s role in the Caribbean?
The Caribbean is an important, growing market for Expedia group with more than 1,700 hotel partners currently in the region, and nearly 800 new partnerships in the first half of 2015 alone. We are focusing more than ever on how we can support our hotel partners to drive demand, which can be seen in our overhaul of Expedia PartnerCentral, the suite of tools our hotel partners use to interact with our sites, and through the opening of our Caribbean offices in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
How does Expedia work with Caribbean hotels to create new bookings?
The Expedia group offers hotel partners international reach; access to multiple channels in a single marketplace; exposure that positively influences direct bookings on the hotel’s own website; and a dedicated team of market managers in cities around the world, who provide deep market insight and are committed to helping hotels increase their profitability.
One of the ways customers purchase travel is through a vacation package which combines multiple products together like air, car and hotel. When these products are bundled, customers save money. Expedia packages are great for hoteliers- on average customers who purchase vacation packages book 2 times further out, stay 2 times longer and are ½ as likely to cancel as a customer who books hotel only.
[We conduct] significant research into traveler booking behavior as well as identifying what our partners need from our technology. This ensures the business invests in the right technology to direct customers to our hotel partners quickly and easily, generating increased demand for the hotels we work with. We have some of the most talented engineers and designers in the world, who draw from our deep insights and market information to constantly solve challenges and stay ahead of the trends. In addition to the standout technology launches, we’re constantly making changes to our platforms so the experience is better for travelers and for our partners each time they engage with us.
Another value driver is the local market management team. The team works directly with hotel partners to help them set their distribution strategy, provide market insight, set promotions, share data and trends, so that hoteliers can make adjustments to increase demand.
How does Expedia compete with meta search sites like Kayak?
Metasearch is an increasingly important channel for a hotelier’s distribution strategy. These sites, which aggregate results from shopping sites from around the internet, compare prices from multiple sources all in one place, giving the shopper confidence that they are going to get the best price available. This category of shopping sites, which include companies like Kayak, Trivago and TripAdvisor, has become very popular and if leveraged properly can be a great source of demand.
Metasearch is expensive. Hoteliers should consider partnering with a company that has strong ability to pay marketing costs, and has a large scale that generates efficiency that can get their hotel listing in the right position on the first page.
The success of our partners is tied in many ways to the success of a destination.”
How does Expedia work for small hotels?
Expedia group is proud to have a long-standing relationship with hotel partners of all sizes around the world. Expedia has a special Small Hotels Program for properties with 50 rooms or fewer. It involves tailored agreements to help small hotels address their own unique marketing and demand needs. We have a track record of success in working with small hotels, and have received testimonials from partners who have had to hire additional staff or have been able to reduce their advertising budgets as a result of the demand [we have] generated for them.
How does Expedia work with Caribbean tourism boards and Destination marketing organizations?
[We are] committed to driving revenue and traffic for our valued partners. The success of our partners is tied in many ways to the success of a destination. [We work] closely with tourism boards and destination marketing organizations through our expert team of market managers. The local teams provide an opportunity for [us] to further enhance the company’s ability to effectively serve partners and support the continued growth of the destination.
What does the future of online booking look like?
We feel strongly that the future of online booking lies in cutting edge technology. As a result we’re investing heavily to ensure we are at the forefront of technology launches, like the Apple Watch app we developed and launched this year.
We feel strongly that the future of online booking lies in cutting edge technology.”
We’ve also seen a rapid increase in the adoption of mobile devices, so we’re working to make mobile app experiences for consumers and partners that provide them the information they need at anytime, anywhere. We are also seeing an increase in multi-device booking, meaning that people are searching for trips on their tablets, then picking the search up on a mobile device and perhaps finally booking on a desktop. So we need to build online booking experiences that make this a seamless process for our customers.
What will travel and tourism will look like in one year? In 10 years?
Our CEO likes to say that if he knew what travel would look like in 10 years he would be sitting on his own private island. In all seriousness, the future of travel lies in more choice. Travelers today want a wide range of experiences—they aren’t their parents’ generation who went on the same vacation every year. People travel more often now, and want different experiences, so there is more opportunity for everyone. At the same time, the travel landscape is increasingly fragmented and competitive so having a varied distribution strategy is key.