Skift Take

Expedia Group's mission statement updated from "The World's Travel Platform" to a more modest blurb may be sending a message to its employees. If any were complacent under the old regime, they'd better be full of hustle to tackle a changing competitive landscape.

What’s in a corporate slogan? Plenty if you are Expedia Group, which has transitioned from referring to itself as “The World’s Travel Platform” to the more humble and truthful, “one of the world’s largest travel platforms.”

For Expedia-watchers, notice that even the capitalization style has changed in its updated mission statement.

That may seem like less than an earth-shaking difference, as captured in Expedia Group’s new and redesigned “Who We Are” website section as of a week ago, but it reflects the retooled corporate mission of CEO Peter Kern, who took on the new job last April, and a fast-changing competitive landscape.

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Skift called out Expedia Group in January 2019 for its arrogant, inaccurate, and U.S.-centric depiction of itself as “The World’s Travel Platform,” which at the time was under the stewardship of now-former CEO Mark Okerstrom.

We wrote that the online travel agency, which in effect boastfully labeled itself the biggest and baddest global travel platform, had a market cap of $17.26 billion at the time, compared with Booking Holdings, which was more than 4.5 times larger, and Delta Air Lines, which had nearly double the valuation of Expedia Group.

Airbnb Was Private During Expedia’s Last Self-Portrait

The competitive landscape has dramatically changed since Expedia’s brand experts previously drafted its profile. While Expedia Group’s market cap today approaches $20 billion, a bit larger than a couple of years ago, Airbnb became a public company in December and its valuation is $116 billion. The homesharing giant toppled Booking Holdings in the market cap contest, and Booking’s valuation stands at $85 billion, second place among online travel companies. That’s smaller than Airbnb’s but four times bigger than Expedia’s market cap.

Today, Expedia Group is indeed “one of the world’s largest travel platforms.” It touts offering 1.6 million properties plus 2.1 million listings from Vrbo, which had a breakout 2020 and stood out among Expedia’s self-described “20+ globally relevant brands.”

Also in the portfolio are 210,000 “unique activities,” according to Expedia, and that’s important because the company’s roster of “things to do” often gets hardly a mention when people discuss tours and activies players Tripadvisor/Viator, GetYourGuide, Klook, Tiqets, TUI Musement, and Airbnb Experiences.

Speaking of brands, Kern of Expedia has been on a cost-cutting tear, and is pushing to simplify Expedia’s far-flung operations, both from internal operations and outward-facing perspectives. In the past several Covid-ravaged months, Expedia Group shed a handful of brands, including SilverRail, Expedia Local Expert, and two short-term rental startups, that were in the fold when Kern moved into the figurative corner office 10 months ago.

A Tidier Collection of Brands

While Expedia Group formerly graphically flaunted a cast of 16 brands, shown above from 2018, in its corporate group photo, it now features just 13, as seen below. Gone in the latest brand casting call are Expedia Group Media Solutions, Expedia Local Expert, Classic Vacations, and Traveldoo. CheapTickets, which was missing in action in the 2018 screenshot, made the cut in the latest group photo, while HomeAway was rebranded to Vrbo.

Again, while the latest, smaller brand photo lineup might have been carried out merely for the purposes of a cleaner web design, the latest public portrait is not out of step with Kern’s desire to make Expedia simpler and more focused.

A Force for Good?

Google’s unofficial motto, since deleted from its code of conduct, was “don’t be evil.” In its new Who We Are text, Expedia Group goes a step further by describing itself as an enabler of everything good about travel.

“We know travel can be hard, but we also know that it’s worth it, every time,” Expedia says. “And because we believe travel is a force for good, we take our roles seriously. We’re here to build great products, and facilitate connections between travelers and our partners that truly bring good into the world.”

Expedia Group spokesman David McNamee described the company’s thinking about its updated mission statement.

“It allows us to have a more meaningful role in travel, directly with our customers and through our partners,” McNamee said. “So, we’re bringing the core principle — that travel is a force for good — to the forefront of our business, enhancing the aforementioned mission to power global travel for everyone, everywhere.”

Expedia clearly wants to be a profitable company — and to foster the goodness of travel along the way. It now concedes that while it seeks to “power global travel for everyone, everywhere,” there are other big companies out there that have a major role to play, and it could be an even a larger one than Expedia’s.

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Tags: airbnb, booking, branding, delta, expedia, peter kern

Photo credit: Screenshot from an Expedia YouTube channel trailer. Expedia Group updated its mission statement.

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