Hopper is just fine with its fintech strategy – despite the Expedia breakup – confident in the value of its products and features, and ready to explore new relationships in the travel industry.
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.
Hopper isn’t changing its fintech strategy after Expedia Group’s public break-up with it.
Expedia claimed that some of Hopper’s fintech products allegedly have an anti-consumer bent, but the Hopper app still lists its five major, fee-based features: price freeze for air, car and hotel; change for any reason for flights; cancel for any reason for flights and hotels; a flight disruption guarantee; and leave for any reason for hotels.
“We stand behind our products and will not be issuing further comments at this time,” a Hopper spokesperson said, responding to a Skift inquiry about how Hopper is coping since Expedia cut off supply of hotel and vacation rentals. “There is value in our fintech products that both consumers and the industry recognize, as exemplified by Hopper’s recognition in the 2022 Skift IDEA Awards.”
CapitalOne Travel, which is a Hopper investor and its largest distribution partner, has gone silent about any adverse impact from the Expedia inventory withdrawal, referring all questions about their partnership to Hopper.
Meanwhile, Hopper has been running a 30% discount on hotel stays in destinations such as Lima, Peru; Panama City, Panama; and Miami, Florida through a flash sale, although the move isn’t necessarily unusual.
And CapitalOne Shopping has been handing out 18% cash back on bookings for properties such as the JW Marriott Miami, The LaSalle Chicago, Autograph Collection, Hyatt Centric The Loop in Chicago, and the Oak Hotel in San Francisco, for example.
Hopper Content Creators
In furthering its social media strategy, Hopper is running a Hopper Content Creator beta, where consumers would be able to upload videos, photos and audio pertaining to their travels, and would receive Carrot Cash, which is Hopper’s rewards currency, or vouchers toward future travel.
Skift is first to report about the Hopper Content Creator test, and a Hopper spokesperson said there’s no timeline for a full launch as the company evaluates the product-market fit.
We’ve talked to a lot of short-term rental and online travel industry people and analysts about the implications of the Hopper-Expedia split, and the consensus seems to be that Hopper likely is feeling some momentary hurt, but has a number of direct relationships with well-performing hotels, and the means to recoup other now-absent hotels from a variety of sources.
On the vacation rental side of the ledger, it isn’t known whether Hopper was receiving all of Expedia’s Vrbo inventory — some of which is unique to Vrbo — while Expedia was tweaking the Expedia-Vrbo-Hotels.com tech stack or whether Hopper was mostly receiving more easy to replicate vacation rental listings from Expedia.com.
At any rate, Hopper is not a major player yet in vacation rentals, and industry players aren’t seeing any major changes in booking momentum because of the Expedia partnership ending.
Competitive Factors in the Expedia-Hopper Partnership Exit
Richard Clarke, managing director of AB Bernstein, said the development calls into question the viability of such business to business distribution partnerships with competitors.
Perhaps one of the pressures for Expedia in the Hopper relationship is that Expedia Group has deals with Marriott and IHG to help identify and police instances where platforms are undercutting their rates, Clarke pointed out. Hopper funds some of of its hotel rate cuts through its high-margin fintech program.
Clarke added that Expedia might have been stung by the fact that it was Hopper that recently secured a travel partnership with Uber. “I do wonder how much of this is a reaction to Hopper getting the b2b deal that everyone thought was an Expedia slam dunk,” Clarke said.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is a former longtime CEO of Expedia Group, and still an Expedia board member.
Expedia has said in the past that it walked away from an Uber deal because the economics didn’t make sense to the company.
Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group argued that Hopper may be the party to come out of this tussle with the “upper hand” against Expedia, which would feel the pinch of losing the third largest U.S. online travel agency as a customer.
Expedia, however, isn’t expected to feel a material impact from the end of the partnership. Or it didn’t file a notice with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to that effect.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon Expedia Group announced a new distribution relationship to power travel for Walmart.
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Photo credit: Hopper CEO and co-founder Frederic Lalonde in discussion with Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Skift