Check out our Skift Takes on Expedia Group's brands for consumers and businesses. Time for some #realtalk.
Expedia Group is the number two global online travel player, behind Booking Holdings, and booked $10 billion in revenue in 2017. Below, Skift presents an explainer about Expedia Group’s brand portfolio.
We show how Expedia Group has positioned each of its brands based on edited company statements. Then we share our Skift Take on how these brands truly operate and fit into the online universe.
Most of the brands — which number 23 or so, depending on how you count them — are consumer brands. We include business-to-business brands, too, but leave out joint ventures.
Online Travel Agencies
Expedia Group Take: “Expedia.com is one of the world’s largest full-service travel brands. It aims to provide the widest selection of vacation destinations, affordable airfares, hotel deals, car rentals, cruise deals, and in-destination activities, attractions, and services.”
Skift Take: It has been a while since Expedia ran TV ads with the equally memorable and irritating “dot coooom” jingle. However, its pitch has remained the same, namely, to be a generic full-service travel agency. Expedia.com woos the average consumer who wants to build the blocks of their trip in one place and wants a single company to call if something goes wrong. A caveat, though: While Expedia.com may be available in 33 countries, too much of its revenue and gross bookings continue to be U.S. domestic, as the company would admit.
Expedia Group Take: “With hundreds of thousands of places to stay around the world and 90 local websites in 41 languages, Hotels.com has it all.”
Skift Take: We strongly suspect that Captain Obvious, the star of Hotels.com TV ads, hasn’t effectively made Hotels.com a household name the way the Trivago Guy and associates have helped Trivago. The brand has instead thrived on the word-of-mouth popularity of its rewards program, which has an admirably simple message of “book-10-nights-get-one-free.” As for its mobile app, we’re still waiting for broad availability of promised features, such as keyless entry at many hotel chains.
Vacation Rentals and Hotel Price-Comparison Engines
HomeAway, VRBO, Bedandbreakfast.com, VacationRentals.com, Abritel, and FeWo-direkt
Expedia Group Take: “From beach houses, to cabins, to condos, HomeAway is a world-leader in the vacation rental industry, with sites offering more than two million unique places to stay in 190 countries.”
Skift Take: It doesn’t make sense for Expedia Group to maintain separate brands when a competitor like Airbnb throws all its marketing dollars at amplifying just one brand. Despite Expedia Group’s talk to the contrary, we suspect it will unify its rental brands — or at least all of its English-language rental brands — under HomeAway. But first the division must finish standardizing its fee model, making all of its listings instantly bookable, and closing its geographic gaps by buying regional brands like Turkey’s HemenKiralik and Canada’s CanadaStays.
Expedia Group Take: “Trivago is a search platform for comparing a deep supply of hotels and alternative accommodations. The Düsseldorf, Germany-based company allows travelers worldwide to make informed decisions by personalizing their lodging search. As of March 31, 2018, Trivago has established 55 localized platforms connected to more than two million hotels and alternative accommodation in more than 190 countries.”
Skift Take: You have seen the TV ads with the creepy Trivago Guy — or else other Trivago characters. In the past year, you have also seen the company’s share price dive from a peak of $23 to about $4.50 at publication time due to missteps. Expedia Group may want to take advantage of the discounted share price and nab the remaining 40 percent of the company. It could retool the brand to fight hotel search company HotelsCombined, which earlier this month was acquired by rival Booking Holdings — possibly to build a “Trivago killer” company.
Smaller Online Travel Brands
Expedia Group Take: “Travelocity focuses on exceptional service, expert advice, and guaranteed value for every trip. It encourages travelers to ‘Wander Wisely’ and is dedicated to being the champion of the customer.”
Skift Take: Expedia Group has what is internally called a “comet” team, which aims to retain the distinctiveness of six brands — Travelocity, Orbitz, CheapTickets, Ebookers, Wotif, and Lastminute.au — while synching up and coordinating their marketing and technology practices. To the credit of General Manager Krista McDougal and her predecessor Brad Wilson, Travelocity is the most-differentiated brand of the bunch. Travelocity has memorable roaming gnome TV ads and a stand-out promise of round-the-clock customer support that fit together to appeal to a particular customer segment.
Expedia Group Take: “Orbitz is a leading travel website. Its loyalty program is the only one where customers can earn rewards immediately on flights, hotels, and packages, and redeem instantly on tens of thousands of hotels worldwide.”
Skift Take: Officially, everything’s fine. However, we suspect Expedia Group is reducing marketing oxygen to Orbitz. It spent nothing on TV ads for Orbitz in 2018 so far, according to estimates by analytics firm iSpot.tv. That figure contrasts with $15 million spent on TV ads for comparably sized Travelocity so far this year. The mothership seems to be spending relatively little on Orbitz in Google ad auctions this year, too. When we asked, Expedia Group said these worries are silly and that different brands call for different marketing schedules and mediums. For example, Orbitz released a new marketing campaign just a few months ago: “Orbitz – Rewarding Travel Just Like That.” We hope a campaign like this will hit the airwaves before too much time passes.
Expedia Group Take: “By simply hiding the brand name, Hotwire can offer customers deep savings on hotel rooms, rental cars, flights and vacation packages.”
Skift Take: Unofficially, Hotwire is supposed to be a brand that’s like the risk-free bond in an investment portfolio otherwise filled with risky stocks. Hotwire only tends to only be wildly profitable during recessions — when airlines, hotels, and car-rental companies use it to sell travel at deep discounts while slightly disguising the offers through semi-opaque and members-only deals to avoid broader price transparency. Surprisingly, despite this economic boom, Expedia Group has invested in marketing for Hotwire, giving its site and TV ads a fresher look. Maybe the brand consistently pulls in a set of deal-seeking customers who came of age in the era of deal brands like Groupon and Secret Escapes and who otherwise wouldn’t be wooed by other Expedia Group brands.
Expedia Group Take: “Wotif is a leading online travel site dedicated to Australian and New Zealand travelers. Since it launched in 2000, one in two Aussies and one in four Kiwis have traveled with Wotif. This year the company will have marketing campaigns celebrating distinctively Australian initiatives and hold the inaugural Australia Day Wotif Town Of The Year Awards as part of the brand’s focus on local community engagement.”
Skift Take: Pronounced “What if”, Wotif was a homegrown Australian travel brand that Expedia acquired in 2014 and moved onto its technology platform. Along the way, Wotif appears not to have gained share against its larger homegrown rival Webjet and foreign players like Agoda. Wotif’s only plan seems to be to add more local marketing efforts. Sometimes Australians must think about the acquisition and how it might have gone differently and ask themselves, “What if?”
Expedia Group Take: “Lastminute.com.au is an Australian’s ultimate travel companion when it comes to booking last minute accommodation, flights, packages, car hire, and experiences.”
Skift Take: Lastminute.com.au is a white-label shell for Expedia content, though it has cheeky touches aimed at Australians. For example, there is a button one can push to disguise the travel search screen and instead display what looks like a work-related project when the boss passes by. That said, most last-minute planning takes place on mobile devices these days, according to data from marketing firm Sojern. Lastminute’s mobile-first presence and branding may not be as effective as last-minute rivals’ like Hopper, HotelTonight, HolidayPirates, and Secret Escapes. If nothing else, it could do more on Instagram. It has only 2,800 followers, compared to private membership club Soho House, which has more than 360,000 followers.
Expedia Group Take: “Ebookers believes travel is personal. No two travelers are the same, so no two trips should be either. With online travel agencies in seven European countries, ebookers gives travelers flexibility.”
Skift Take: Ebookers is just reselling Exepdia.com inventory on an Expedia.com technology platform. It may disappear like Venere — a brand the conglomerate bought in 2008 and killed in late 2016 — unless it innovates more than merely adding sophisticated packaging tools. Ebookers is being blown out of the water on the innovation and revenue growth front by European online travel agencies MisterFly, which offers an innovative price-comparison search results, and lets consumers pay for their trips in quarterly installments, and Kiwi.com, which cleverly lets shoppers mix-and-match flights from non-partner airlines into single itineraries.
Expedia Group Take: “In addition to cheap flights, CheapTickets’ discounted travel products include cheap hotels, cheap cruises, cheap rental cars, cheap vacation packages, vacation rentals, last-minute trips, and event tickets.”
Skift Take: The branding opportunity for a name like CheapTickets is to offer uniquely discounted plane tickets from, say, wholesalers or ethnic travel agencies and make them available, either through a members-only site or a similar model. Instead, this is just the same old Expedia.com inventory. Expedia Group ought to buy expertise at deeply discounted tickets, like either Mondee, OnVoya, Vayama, Getaroom, or even Fareportal given its CheapOair brand, and reconfigure CheapTickets. But expect Expedia Group to cheap out and do little except maybe tinker some more with the brand’s loyalty program.
CarRentals.com and Cardelmar
Expedia Group Take: “Part of the Hotwire Group, CarRentals.com is the premier car rental booking brand online. It offers advanced, easy-to-use technologies to consumers and select vendor partners alike via localized sites in four countries.”
Skift Take: While rival Booking Holdings has been pouring money into its consumer-facing Rentalcars brand, its related Rentalcars Connect business-to-business unit, and its affiliate or reseller business, Expedia has been letting CarRentals.com drive on autopilot, comparatively speaking, by relying on the popularity of its German and Dutch sister brand Cardelmar.
Expedia Group Take: “AirAsiaGo is one of the fastest-growing online travel portals in Asia, offering travelers an extensive selection of hotels, activities, and travel services. The AirAsiaGo brand is managed by AirAsiaExpedia, a joint venture company that Expedia Group owns 75 percent of.”
Skift Take: Think of this as Expedia white-labeled for the airline AirAsia. You would think Expedia Group would want to tout a collaboration like this with a supplier. Doesn’t it want to encourage more airlines and hotel chains to outsource their technology needs to it?
Expedia Group Take: “Relying on timely, data-driven insights from travel management company Egencia, businesses stay one step ahead by making business travel choices that align with traveler preference and corporate policy. Egencias consultants are ready to assist with every step small, mid-cap and multi-national companies in more than 65 countries.”
Skift Take: An under-appreciated star brand in the Expedia Group constellation is its business travel division, Egencia. The unit became the world’s fourth-largest travel management company by being more sophisticated than legacy players at wringing inefficiencies out of processes. But Egencia’s brand suffers, in the eyes of some corporate travel managers, for not being seen as sufficiently high-touch. Adding money and sophistication to its niche business-to-business marketing effort could yield outsized returns in helping Egencia to secure more global corporate accounts. Expect acquisitions, too.
Expedia Group Take: “Founded in 1987, Expedia CruiseShipCenters is North America’s leading cruise specialist, providing a full range of travel products through its network of 250 independently owned, retail travel franchises and 5,000 vacation consultants. The brand has been recognized as a top seller in North America with every major cruise line.”
Skift Take: We’re not all that impressed with the Expedia CruiseShipCenters website. There’s no mobile app. Consumers don’t book instantly but they request a quote instead. That may be fairly typical for cruise bookings online but is hardly in keeping with the larger Expedia brand and is hardly competitive with smaller players Dreamlines and CruiseCompete. The name recognition helps, but overall it feels a little uninspiring.
Expedia Local Expert
Expedia Group Take: “A leading provider of activities and destination experiences, Expedia Local Expert offers expertise and assistance in booking events, activities, tours, attractions, ground transportation, and other services.”
Skift Take: If you visit many popular vacation destinations, such as Hawaii’s main cities, it’s hard to miss the kiosks and concierge stands where Expedia Local Expert staff sell tours and activities in more than 100 hotels and other retail locations — plus online bookings in more than 1,000 locales worldwide. Yet startups like Klook and GetYourGuide and competitors like TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings are investing heavily in online bookings. Expedia Group is overdue to buy a company with content or operator connections to help speed things up.
Expedia Group Take: “A premier provider of vacations for discerning travelers, Classic Vacations offers a full line of luxury accommodations, ground transportation, car rentals, unique tours and excursions, and all classes of air service to top destinations and experiences. Classic Vacations is the number-one-rated luxury vacation company by travel advisors.”
Skift Take: Classic Vacations, a tour operator, sells travel in partnership with agencies. There may be no sector that is as much of a relationship business as the one Classic Vacations plays in, but its long-standing leaders may need to consider a refresh for the 40-year-old brand.
Expedia Group Media Solutions
Expedia Group Take: “Expedia Group Media Solutions the advertising arm of Expedia Group, offers industry expertise and digital marketing solutions that allow brands to reach, engage and influence its qualified audience of travelers around the world. The unit provides data-driven insights about traveler behaviors, along with dynamic advertising solutions, to deliver strategic campaigns and measurable results.”
Skift Take: An often-overlooked gem is Expedia’s compact but zippily growing ad agency arm. We estimate the unit generated more than $300 million in revenue for the company in 2017, though the division doesn’t break out its numbers. Expedia Group Media Solutions has the ingredients that could turn it into a superstar brand. It leads the market by a wide margin in being a travel-focused ad agency that can help clients — such as hotels, tourism boards, and credit card issuers — create and test ad campaigns by analyzing volume changes at Expedia-owned brands.
Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN)
Expedia Group Take: “Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN) powers the hotel business of hundreds of leading airlines, travel agencies, loyalty, and corporate travel companies plus several top consumer brands.”
Skift Take: Of the handful of travel affiliate, or commission-based reseller programs out there, the Expedia Affiliate Network is the most pervasive brand. We suspect it’s the among the world’s fastest-growing private label travel affiliate networks. Props to its marketers, who are successfully signing up airlines, travel agencies, and other companies. The company has cleverly led with content marketing that tries to educate resellers on how to build their brands rather than only talk up its technological investment, breadth of inventory, and customer-focused flexibility in commercial arrangements — which are also impressive.
Expedia Group Take: “Traveldoo solutions simplify travel booking and expense reporting, help optimize travel spend and expense management processes, and improve risk and crisis management for more than 4,500 customers worldwide in 65 countries.”
Skift Take: At careers portal LifeAtExpedia.com, Traveldoo is one of five brands that were shortlisted on the main page at publication time, when the brand had a half-dozen positions open. Expect to see more growth here.
Expedia Group Take: “SilverRail Technology is built for rail, uniting the ecosystem of rail carriers and travel distributors around the world’s most comprehensive search and booking platform for rail content. It helps with journey planning, inventory management, scheduling, pricing, booking, payment, ticketing, reporting, and administration.”
Skift Take: Looking for help with their sales and distribution services, European rail companies have turned to outside vendors, such as Amadeus, IBM, Siemens, HaCon, Accesrail, Sqills, and Expedia Group’s SilverRail. While the sector’s sales cycle is an extended one, SilverRail has an opportunity to build a high-margin business and become one of the world’s most-used global sales and distribution systems for rail. A big marketing challenge has been for SilverRail to make itself an appealing place for star technical talent to work. It appears to gone some way toward doing this, having recently been ranked by employee review site GlassDoor as a best place to work.
Expedia Group Take: “Alice is a hotel operations platform that improves staff communication, task management, and guest satisfaction.”
Skift Take: Two years ago, this 110-employee services company settled on a marketing message that has since clicked with brands like Viceroy and Nordic Choice Hotels. Rather than being a grab bag of software to replace old-school tools like walkie-talkies and pagers, it now presents itself as a suite of tools that promise to play nicely with a hotel’s other software and processes and that can be purchased a la carte or as a bundle. Smartly done, and its business-to-business marketing skill should be a lesson to other Expedia Group units.
Expedia Group Lodging Partner Services
Expedia Group Take: “Expedia Group Lodging Partner Services helps drive incremental demand and direct bookings to lodging suppliers by providing the opportunity to reach a highly valuable audience of travel consumers.”
Skift Take: They should just rename this Expedia for Properties.
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Photo credit: We show how Expedia Group has positioned each of its brands based on edited company statements. Then we share our Skift Take on how these brands truly operate and fit into the online universe. Expedia Group