Skift Take

Arne Sorenson was a maverick in his own way. He quietly visited Airbnb headquarters in 2014 to get a better understanding of short-term rentals, which culminated in Marriott's Homes & Villas. And he found a way to have a mutually beneficial relationship with those "evil" online travel agencies.

Series: Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.

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Online Travel This Week In travel distribution, Arne Sorenson's Marriott, along with Hilton and others, led the way in recent years in driving direct bookings with the enticement of discounted rooms for loyalty program members, and reducing — but not eliminating — the chains' historic reliance on online travel agencies. However, Sorenson, who served as Marriott's CEO for nearly a decade and died Monday after fighting pancreatic cancer, was not one to dismiss the importance of online travel agency distribution for price-conscious travelers, who generally aren't loyal to a brand. AllianceBernstein analyst Richard Clarke cited the "ground-breaking" agreements Marriott struck with online travel companies Expedia Group in 2019 and Alibaba's Fliggy two years earlier as hallmarks of Sorenson's legacy of redefining hotel-online travel agency relationships. "The Expedia deal turned the poacher into a gamekeeper," Clarke said. While I don't agree that Expedia in particular and online travel agencies generally are "poachers" when they take hotel bookings, Clarke's quote indeed reflects a changed dynamic that Sorenson helped create. You have to recall the venomous relations that often characterized h