Skift Take

Talk about tough love. The CEO of Expedia Group, Peter Kern, is sticking with the tough line despite the pandemic by still demanding a significant reorganization and tech revamp for the online travel giant.

It may take 12 to 18 months for a full tech overhaul and business simplification to fall into place at Expedia.

That was the a key takeaway from Peter Kern, vice chairman and CEO of Expedia Group during an interview on Tuesday at Skift Global Forum.

“I’ve said to the company, ‘I think we have a more complete data set on the world’s travelers than anyone else, but we’ve never had it in one place,'” Kern said. “[The data] was in multiple places, broken up. You couldn’t teach your machines or use AI against the data, etc.”

“Bringing that all together has enormous power to unlock capabilities for us,” Kern said. “But we’re doing it really for the first time across our technology stack.”

On a February 13 analyst call, Expedia Group Chairman Barry Diller lambasted Expedia Group’s inefficiencies and called it “bloated.”

“Diller is always good for a colorful comment, but I think it was a reflection of how the business had become so complex that we couldn’t help ourselves being bigger than we needed to be and more complicated than we need to be,” said Kern, who spoke on Tuesday with Dennis Schaal, Skift’s founding editor and executive editor.

Kern said Expedia Group’s management has been analyzing its smaller brands and has been culling some of its internal activities that no longer make sense.

“Each of our brands had their own technology, and we didn’t have as many shared resources as we probably should,” Kern said. “We would build and then rebuild and rebuild with the same activities across seven locations and many data lakes…. We need to simplify to go faster, be more agile, and do more for the consumer and our partners.”

He cited an example of how Expedia’s flagship brand offers vacation rentals separately from its brand dedicated to vacation rentals, Vrbo.

“It was challenging to bring Vrbo content and supply across to the rest of our OTA [online travel agency] brands,” Kern said. “So one of the solutions we went after was just sourcing independent, easily bookable online content.”

“There were some differences in the nature of that supply, and there was a different focus in how we went after it,” Kern said. “But in a large part it was a structural issue for us. But where we’re headed is a convergence where all of that supply will be available on any of our brands anywhere.”

Kern’s fundamental goal is to integrate the conglomerate’s underlying technology, though a reorganization has also aligned teams for more simplified workflows. Kern has been a director of Expedia Group since the completion of the IAC/Expedia Group spin-off and has served as vice-chairman of Expedia Group since June 2018.

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Tags: expedia, expedia group, online travel agencies, peter kern, sgf2020, skift forum, videos

Photo credit: A salon at Hotel Baume, a luxury property in Paris's Saint Germain des Pres district. Hotel Baume

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