Booking.com is Booking Holdings' favored child, but with the addition of HotelsCombined, it is apparent that the parent company still sees plenty of opportunity for its Kayak unit in metasearch worldwide. This deal will help Kayak expand in Asia Pacific, and will give HotelsCombined additional resources as well.
Buying UK-headquartered Momondo Group in 2017 for $550 million wasn’t enough for Booking Holdings as it announced Monday that it is acquiring Sydney, Australia-based HotelsCombined.
Like Momondo, HotelsCombined will become part of Booking Holdings’ Kayak unit, expanding the metasearch unit’s presence in Asia Pacific.
Kayak has 22 people working out of a Hong Kong office but they are mostly focused on flight metasearch. The HotelsCombined deal strengthens Kayak in hotels and in Asia Pacific.
The deal, which has been approved by HotelsCombined shareholders and its board of directors, is expected to close later this year, subject to regulatory approvals. Founded in 2005, HotelsCombined is privately held. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
HotelsCombined already had partnerships with Booking Holdings brands Booking.com and Agoda as part of HotelsCombined’s metasearch business. It also had partnerships, as do most metasearch companies, with plenty of Booking Holdings rivals across the travel industry.
Earlier in its history, HotelsCombined emphasized powering hotel metasearch behind the scenes for third parties, but in recent years it has put increased emphasis on going direct to consumers and building its own brand.
Kayak looked at acquiring HotelsCombined at least twice in recent years before the current deal, according to a source, but wasn’t ready to make it happen.
“We’ve always been inspired by the entrepreneurial culture of Booking Holdings brands and are excited to be joining the family.” said Hichame Assi, HotelsCombined CEO. “Operating under the Kayak umbrella will strengthen our proposition to both customers and partners with greater scale, product breadth and innovation.”
Skift spoke with Assi about the challenges of building a brand from the far reaches of Sydney even as the company, with its then-affiliate-business-model slant, said it offered hotels in more than 120,000 destinations and operated in more than 40 languages, supporting some 120 currencies. The interview was conducted as part of a Skift Research report, The State of Travel Metasearch in 2015.
Kayak already operates multiple metasearch brands, including Kayak, Momondo, Cheapflights, Swoodoo, Checkfelix, and others. There’s been no word yet from Booking Holdings or Kayak on plans for the HotelsCombined brand.
“We’ve admired their execution for many years, Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner said of HotelsCombined. “I’m eager to work together to strengthen our capabilities and global network.”
Kayak has long been stronger in flights than hotels so the HotesCombined add-on will strengthen its hotels business, especially as it competes against Trivago and others in Asia Pacific.
“HotelsCombined has built a strong brand with loyal consumers across APAC, and we believe the team will be a great addition to Kayak to further expand our worldwide metasearch strategy,” said Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings.
Fogel has plenty of experience in mergers and acquisitions; that was his specialty before becoming Booking Holdings CEO in 2017.
Fogel was the key player in identifying Active Hotels and Bookings.nl as acquisition targets more than a decade ago. The story story of how the company, then called Priceline.com, combined bought the two brands and combined them to create Booking.com, is detailed in The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition Booking.com, which Skift published Monday.
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Photo credit: HotelsCombined CEO Hichame Assi. Booking Holdings announced it is acquiring HotelsCombined, a privately held metasearch business headquartered in Australia. HotelsCombined