Hotel and online travel agency CEOs like to play down the direct booking wars, which is kind of understandable given the mutually beneficial relationship the two groups have, but it doesn’t mean they agree on everything.

“I completely understand what they’re trying to do and I would be trying to do the same thing and I am doing the same thing versus Google,” Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom said on Thursday at the ITB Berlin travel conference.

While Okerstrom praised the CEOs of the big hotel companies, he disagreed with some of their tactics, including Hilton’s controversial “Stop Clicking Around” campaign that launched in February 2016.

“I think that the advertising campaign was misguided,” he said.

“I think the strategic intent is right. I think that telling consumers not to do what we know that they will do forever, which is shop around…it would be hard for me to imagine that that was the thing that drove their direct growth,” he said.

Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta might disagree, especially as the company’s loyalty membership jumped from 51 million at the end of 2015 to 85 million today.

M&A Pause

Despite appointing a former mergers and acquisitions guy to run the company, Expedia has seen its dealmaking fall back in recent years.

In 2018, it made just two acquisitions for a total of $54 million, a tiny number compared to the $5.74 billion it splashed in 2015.

Okerstrom, who had run acquisitions strategy at the company, said that Expedia was currently “strategically complete” but that the company would “still be opportunistic on M&A.”

“I say we’re strategically complete. We are sub-scale in China, we are sub-scale in India.There’s always geographic regions where we could be stronger. We’ve got geographic holes we need to be bigger in corporate travel so we know there are areas where we need to beef up and we’ll get there organically or inorganically,” he said.

Interestingly, Okerstrom said that the company’s M&A team was “bigger than it’s ever been.”

Photo Credit: Hilton's "Stop Clicking Around" campaign. Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom wasn't a fan. Hilton