Skift Take

Personalization initiatives aside, Apple's privacy changes are a great win for travelers, but a big headache for online travel companies. The result is the biggest players have the potential to gain advantage over smaller competitors.

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

Apple’s privacy changes are becoming a marketing and personalization headache across the travel industry, but they could further strengthen the largest online travel agencies with access to huge amounts of first-party data versus smaller competitors.

“We believe this means big consumer travel brands with mass distribution and the scale to develop smart, data-driven marketing will win,” said Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global. “And, of course, Google and Apple will build separate — and perhaps different — ecosystems that force marketers to create different methods to engage in a specific, curated way.”

Reid said marketers have already seen their ability to target travel audiences based on mobile user data in the U.S. and globally get reduced by 40 and 25 percent, respectively.

This means that large players that collect first-party data from their massive audiences or use permission-based models, rather than relying on third party data of diminished value, will have the edge in marketing efficiency and in operating loyalty programs, he said.

Asked whether online travel agencies, metasearch companies or hotels will accrue relative advantage against one another because of Apple’s changes, Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner said “We’re all going to be impacted by it.  First, it complicates customer acquisition by making it harder to target users based on past behavior and building ‘look alike’ audiences.  Second, it makes personalization trickier as more users become anonymous.”

Access to customer data likely becomes more of a super-charged issue. The hotel industry has long felt aggrieved that big online travel agencies don’t share customer data with hotels when guests book their properties on websites such as Expedia, Priceline or MakeMyTrip.

One of the purported advantages for hotels of Tripadvisor Plus, the subscription program that had hotels offering customers steep discounts in exchange for otherwise commission-free bookings, was that Tripadvisor was going to share customer data with hoteliers. A revamped Tripadvisor Plus, now being tested and offering travelers cash back at check-ins instead of booking discounts, will likewise share customer data with hotels if they directly participate in the program. Tripadvisor will access many properties, however, through aggregators such as, for instance, and hotels involved in these types of third-party transactions won’t get their customer data.

Facebook said its third quarter results were adversely impacted by Apple’s privacy changes.

In the travel industry, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said last week during its own earnings call that the company hasn’t been affected by Apple’s tracking changes. “No, we’ve not seen any impact on Airbnb, and that’s not really the business we’re in,” Chesky said.

Werner Kunz, the CEO of Fareportal, which operates CheapOair and OneTravel, said his company may be less-impacted than some of its peers because it is focusing its marketing on “retention channels,” such as its apps and loyalty program.

Kunz said CheapOair heavily relies on its own data from customers using both desktop and mobile, although it also accesses Marketing Information Data Tapes on industry search and booking trends from the global distribution systems.

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Tags: apple,, cheapoair, Dennis' Online Travel Briefing, fareportal, kayak, Skift Pro Columns, tripadvisor

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