The online travel duopoly is dead — if it ever existed. New travel brands from sectors like banks and rideshare services are running amok.
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.
Online Travel This Week
Do you remember a few years ago how there was so much talk in online travel about the Booking Holdings–Expedia Group duopoly? How Expedia Group, which owned Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com, and Booking, with brands including Booking.com, Kayak, Priceline and Agoda, controlled the hotel market and a whole lot more in travel?
Well, the duopoly concept was a bit overblown at the time, and now Airbnb and Google Travel have stepped in with muscular market share regardless.
But if intense consolidation characterized the online travel universe back then, there have been a bevy of new players emerging in online travel in the interim that are spearheading what might be characterized as a de-consolidation movement.
Rideshare leader Uber’s announced partnership this week with tours and activities brand Viator, owned by Tripadvisor, highlights the influx of nontraditional players into the online travel arena. Uber is rolling out an integration with Viator that enables customers to view and book a curated set of top experiences in their destination and to be able to book an Uber ride to and fro.
Uber Travel, which offers the ability to book airport ground transportation, buses and trains, has expanded into 10,000 cities. Uber also has partnered with AwardWallet to take your email confirmations for flights, hotels and restaurants, and to aggregate them into one viewable itinerary similar to what Google Travel and TripIt do.
Singapore-based rideshare service Grab is offering hotels from Booking.com and Agoda, and experiences from Klook, not to mention delivery and financial services in its superapp strategy.
Then there’s U.S.-based superapp wannabe Hopper, which is becoming a high-profile flight seller, and claims to be generating more revenue from rate freezes and travel disruption protections than from selling airline tickets or accommodations’ reservations.
If Hopper is making strides in these so-called fintech services, then cue the banks and credit card companies such as Hopper partner Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi that are making new or invigorated forays into providing travel services in competition at times with American Express Travel, which partners with Expedia.
This fragmentation of travel service providers represents opportunities and challenges for incumbent online travel agency leaders, which can pick up incremental revenue in partnerships, but risk powering the ascension of newbie rivals.
“We think Uber’s approach to partnering its way into travel-related end markets makes sense,” wrote wrote investment-management firm Bernstein in a research note Monday. “Partnerships likely limit the commission rate Uber can capture, but allow it to scale the offerings quicker, with less capital investment and without having to challenge well-established incumbents on inventory.”
An increasing number of nontraditional travel players may be breaking out similar strategies.
This doesn’t mean that there are no antitrust concerns in the travel industry. Regulators still need to take a hard look at Google’s penchant to favor its own travel products over those of rivals given its search near-monopoly.
Trivago CEO Backs Compensation for Injured Workers in World Cup Construction
Trivago CEO Axel Hefer tweeted his support for an Amnesty International program to donate hotel revenue from the World Cup in Qatar to workers injured during the event’s construction projects. “Travel and sport should bring us together but not at any cost,” Hefer tweeted. Twitter
Hotels Take Back Share From Urban Short-Term Rentals
The hotel industry has taken back market share from short-term rentals in U.S. urban areas, where rentals’ portion of the market is now well below 2019 levels, according to a new report from AirDNA. In early 2022, the rate gap between hotels and short-term rentals in cities narrowed considerably with hotels only wielding a 26.6 percent rate premium. AirDNA
Tripadvisor Plus Could Get New Life
New Tripadvisor CEO Matt Goldberg could resurrect the Tripadvisor Plus membership plan, although it may begin with free services rather than a subscription program. No decisions have been made however. Skift
Airbnb Offers New Support Programs for Beginner Hosts
Airbnb will assign a superhost to assist new hosts in getting their listings up and running, and added new search categories to its growing roster of ways to look for a stay. The company also streamlined the process for hosts to file an insurance claim. Skift
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