Talking Travel at the Expedia Partnership Conference
By Guy Britton
LAS VEGAS — Captain Obvious, the Trivago Guy and the Travelocity Gnome welcomed 3,500 delegates from over 60 countries attending this year’s Expedia Partner Conference in Las Vegas December 9-10 following what was a huge year for the company.
In the past year, Expedia, Inc. has acquired Travelocity, Orbitz, Wotif and has a still-pending deal with Home-away. Caribbean Journal was there to learn and share the latest news from what has become the world largest travel agency.
As such, Expedia has become even more important to Caribbean travelers and vital to tourism stakeholders and the larger Caribbean region.
Each year the company brings together top supply partners; hotels, airlines, rental cars and local tour operators from around the world to discuss business, technology and the coming year. The Partner Conference is a colossal event that is a bit of show, a way to thank its best partners, a training event and a kind of a pitch for its spectrum of travel brands. This year’s event was held at the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
The conference opened with a world travel overview by Mark Okerstrom CFO.
“Expedia has spent 750 million dollars investing in technology in the past 12 months .. .and we think of ourselves more as a technology company than a travel company,” he told the conference.
Okerstrom said “Expedia’s total transactional business amounted to $65 billion dollars, or about 5 percent of all worldwide travel transactions.
There are $1.3 trillion in travel transactions each year, a massive number that’s even larger when you compare it to the Caribbean’s take.
Indeed, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, tourists spent $29 billion dollars in the Caribbean last year.
In his, keynote address, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company’s strategy has always been to own and power the worlds best travel brands.
The CEO reviewed the companies newest brands and explained why investing in a portfolio of brands was important to consumers and how having all those travel brands using one travel technology platform gives consumers more choices and better experiences.
He said this was vital to consumers, changing faster than ever before even more important in the future. Travel is a force for good.
Travel makes the world better, brings the world closer and breaks down barriers and prejudices, he said.
Cyril Ranque, president of Expedia lodging partnerships, gave a particularly poignant presentation where he laid out strategies and specifics of Expedia’s Partner Central — the system hotels use to interact with the Expedia platform.
He said the goal is create stronger relationships with partners by giving partners tools, data and technology to not only increase their bookings with Expedia but also to increase direct bookings.
Direct bookings are on the increase industry wide. This deeper partnership strategy is designed to help Expedia compete effectively with existing competitors and anticipated new competition from technology giants Google, Facebook and Apple.
The conference also featured colorful appearances by the Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC and Expedia Inc. Barry Diller and his wife Diane Von Furstenberg.
They both reviewed their individual experiences and strategies for business success, entrepreneurship, brand building and even terrorism and politics.
Diller also shared his perspective and view of the state of the media industry and said we are in a period of “media destruction” where the standard bearers of media; cable and TV network would de-construct and then reemerge and evolve to accept the realities of the Internet age.
“We are only at the beginning of these changes,: he said.
When asked about terrorism’s potential affects on future travel he recalled that IAC acquired Expedia the same month as 9/11 happened.
That experience, he said, gave him a unique perspective and that what he learned from that experience is that travel will always come back.
“Where there is life, there is travel,” he said.