Skift Take

Skift sat down with 17 online travel CEOs over three months to better understand what matters to them as they look at the future of travel booking. Understand the trends, buy the e-book.

We released our first e-book earlier this month about the Future of Travel Booking — an unprecedented collection of 17 interviews with the CEOs of virtually all of the world’s top online booking sites, including an extensive, book-only interview with the Priceline Group’s Darren Huston.

Below are quotes from the e-book that address changes in marketing and advertising and how these CEOs and their teams are helping their businesses evolve.

Darren Huston, Priceline Group CEO

Skift: In your third quarter earnings call you talked about the Priceline Group’s TV advertising as being a breakthrough because it reduces your reliance on Google. One question I have is do you think that was overstated in terms of reducing your reliance on Google given the amount that you still spend on Google paid search? And the other thing is the TV space is so competitive and now we’re seeing that millennials are changing their habits about watching TV, so how do you see this whole thing playing out?

Huston: It’s overstated as being anything sudden. It’s certainly overstated that people think that we don’t have a huge and very critical relationship with Google. It’s overstated if they think that what we were trying to do was to lower our reliance on Google. It was a natural outcome in some ways because Google is having harder times growing as fast as we need to grow, so we’re sourcing demand from more and more varied places. That includes now doing offline marketing which is another form of demand generation. We, as a company, love Google search.

Skift: You sort of have it down.

Huston: Yes, because Google is the most data-driven, the most sophisticated advertising marketplace for people who have products that are really good products that convert well.

When you go down from Google and you even get into Bing or Yandex or Baido and then you get into the metas and things, the marketplace has become less good. Each of them is improving, but they are harder to buy from and then you go all the way to the extreme offline marketing, which for us is like … We’re data junkies, so offline marketing is like this thing … We ultimately want tons and tons of data.

Steve Hafner, Kayak CEO

Skift: With so much TV advertising by the big online travel agencies and Kayak taking place over the last few years, is TV advertising becoming an integral part of the future of travel booking? Is it a must-have?

Hafner: I don’t think it’s a must-have for travel brands. I think it is a part of the marketing mix for a lot of companies. All companies are getting more sophisticated about where they spend their marketing dollars. If there is a return on investment for TV, then great, we’ll spend money there. If there’s not then we’ll shift the spend. TV historically has been a way to reach a mass audience; it’s for building reach. But it is not very focused, not very targeted, and it’s expensive. And that expense has grown over time as the audience has migrated away from TV.

Marketing dollars are still mismatched between where consumer behavior is versus where marketing dollars go. I suspect you’ll see total TV spend go up over time just because that is the only mass-audience medium that’s out there. If you look at Kayak, for example, we are trying to put more of our money online, not offline.

Skift: And are you doing some of that targeting?

Hafner: We are trying. No one has yet solved the holy grail of one-to-one marketing to consumers across their devices and across apps versus desktop versus the offline environment. Facebook is the latest to try with their Atlas program. We are just as eager as everybody else is to have someone solve it.

Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor CEO

Skift: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about the future of travel booking?

Kaufer: It’s a little bit ironic that so many of the big players have turned to offline advertising for an online product. But, it remains a way to reach a large number of people. And, TripAdvisor as a company has really never relied on offline advertising, but we too have reached out because we feel we now have a really great product in almost every market, and it’s just a question of does everyone know what we have.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia CEO

Skift: Are TV advertising trends border skirmishes also or are those wars? What are you seeing in terms of Expedia,, Trivago, you name it, on TV?

Khosrowshahi: I think those have graduated definitely beyond border skirmishes based on the dollars spent. TV is a strong media source to the extent that you have a strong message and a strong service. The thing about TV is that it lifts your business across all your channels. For example, at we see the Captain Obvious campaign has been a real success, is improving direct traffic, but also improves traffic, click-through rates and conversions across other channels, as well.

We are committed to the TV medium. We will continue to increase our investment there, and it is no surprise that we are seeing some of the other players investing in TV, as well.

Marina Kolesnik, CEO

Skift: So what are some of the biggest challenges in acquiring customers and converting lookers, including those mobile lookers, into bookers?

Kolesnik: It’s like other markets. On the one hand you have the competition. We have marketing channels that could become more competitive, more expensive, more difficult to work with. Although Russia is a similar country to China in that the largest search engine is a Russian one, Yandex, with 70% market share. We have two local social networks that are much bigger than Facebook. So there are a lot of local marketing channels, local instruments.

Adam Goldstein, Hipmunk CEO

Skift: In the travel booking game, does quality win or do marketing dollars win?

Goldstein: Well, I think both can win. It’s a big industry. You can see a lot of companies out there that win on marketing dollars and you can see a lot of companies that win on quality. And you can see companies that win at both.
I think even if you just look at the supplier side of things there is a huge disparity in the amount of bookings that happen direct to supplier for the different airlines and different hotel chains. Sometimes it is because the websites and the apps are especially good and other times it is because they focus a lot of their marketing effort on driving direct transactions.

João Ricardo Mendes, Hotel Urbano CEO

Skift: What are some of the trends you are seeing when people book hotels on the Hotel Urbano website, app or through a call center, and how is it all changing?

Mendes: What we are doing that is very different from most of the OTAs around the world is creating demand for travel. We have one of the biggest travel brands [second largest behind Disney] on Facebook with all of this travel intent. We don’t only have the big travel brand on Facebook with 12 million likes. We are monitoring that behavior and we are seeing what they are sharing and querying no matter if it is not connected to travel. Through that we create over 400 kinds of patterns. We can see whether you want to go to a Japanese restaurant or a concert on Sunday, and whether you travel to any place on a given weekend. From this we create marketing for people who didn’t even think of traveling before.

Javier Pérez-Tenessa, edreams Odigeo CEO

Skift: Travel companies have been offering flights online for nearly 20 years. How difficult can it be for eDreams Odigeo to offer them something new and different, and where do you think the future of flight booking is heading?

Pérez-Tenessa: On the marketing side, we manage millions of keywords in search engines and we have been a pioneer in the introduction of technology that reduces the final price to our customers. We are the first online travel agency to sell large volumes of low-cost airline flights and one of the very few to combine charter inventory and the world’s three GDSs.


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Tags:, ceo interviews, fotb, google, kayak, otas, priceline

Photo credit: Understand the future of travel booking.

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