Hotels generally don't want online travel agencies to run their front desks and house-cleaning services. And Expedia Group is much better at marketing and booking hotel rooms than operating them.
Booking Holdings exited its hospitality tech business several years ago, and now Expedia Group seems to have done likewise by off-loading its Alice hotel operations platform.
ASG, a unit of Alpine investors, announced Wednesday that it acquired New York-headquartered Alice, which provides a backend operations platform to hotel staff, from Expedia Group in a “carve-out transaction.”
None of the parties were saying how much money changed hands in the transaction, the latest Expedia Group brand disposal as it attempts to simplify its far-flung operations. Alice, according to Crunchbase, raised $39 million in total funding since its 2013 founding.
Expedia Group controlled the company at least since 2017, when it led a $26 million Series B funding round. Expedia also led Alice’s $9.5 million Series A round a year earlier.
Expedia Group once had ambition to develop a bevy of tech and operations solutions for hotel partners, and demoed some of these capabilities at its partner conferences.
But the Alice transaction, coupled with Booking.com’s closure of its BookingSuite hotel tech services a few years ago, points to the fact that the hospitality industry really isn’t much interested in looking to help from their online travel agency frenemies for their hotel operations. Or perhaps hotel operations were not Expedia and Booking’s strong suit.
Expedia Group still has aspirations to provide some tech services to hotels — it powers a rate parity monitoring service for Marriott — and other partners, but the focus is changing, and hotel operations themselves aren’t part of the mix.
CEO Peter Kern sees significant potential in expanding the company’s business-to-business services, housed largely in Expedia Partner Solutions, including offering partners Expedia’s hotel and flight inventory, as well as support.
“We think it’s a really big opportunity, and we are in a unique place,” Kern said in June at an investor conference. “We have a lot of work to do to maximize our potential there. But by bringing our supply group together with our B2B group, we’re sort of essentially saying all partners, be they hotels, airlines, car rentals, homeowners, you name it, they are all potential users of our platform.”
Over the past year or so, Expedia Group has been shedding noncore brands in the short-term rental arena, rail distribution tech, and tour businesses in a bid to get more focus on existing businesses where it sees plenty of upside. Expedia Partner Solutions is one such focus area.
With the transaction, Alice will join Transcendent, ProfitSword and Visual Matrix, all acquired since 2019, within the ASG Hospitality Technology vertical.
In the transaction announcement, Alice said it has relationships with 2,500 properties, including those with ties to Marriott International, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Graduate Hotels, and Grupo Posadas. the Alice is a cloud-based platform that helps hotel staff run services such as housekeeping, in-room dining, maintenance and the front desk.
“Expedia was a good partner for Alice during a challenging time for the hospitality industry and the world,” said Alice CEO Justin Effron, who co-founded the company with Alex Shashou and Dmitry Koltunov in 2013.”We are thankful for their investment in the business and excited for this new chapter.”
ASG CEO Steve Reardon said combining Alice with its hospitality tech portfolio companies will enhance the “benefits of an all-in-one platform to efficiently manage hotel operations.”
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Photo credit: Hotel staff at Southern Hotel, Covington, Louisiana, June 8, 2014. Expedia Group sold its Alice hotel operations platform. Peter Clark / Flickr.com