Peter Kern stood by the decision about the split with Hopper, but he said other partners shouldn't worry — as long as they play by the rules.
Skift Global Forum was held in New York City on September 26-28, 2023. Read coverage of the event at the link below.
Expedia Group caused a stir this summer when it cut ties with the growing online travel app Hopper. Peter Kern, Expedia’s CEO, stood by the decision onstage Wednesday at the Skift Global Forum during a session moderated by Skift executive editor Dennis Schaal. Expedia Group owns brands including Expedia.com, Vrbo, Hotels.com, Travelocity, and Orbitz.
“When we looked hard at the Hopper product, we felt like it was creating a bad consumer experience that was pushing customers to buy things they either didn’t need or fully understand. And we didn’t want our partners’ products represented in their marketplace,” Kern said.
Expedia had been supplying Hopper with hotel and vacation rental inventory, part of the travel giant’s growing business-to-business service.
Hopper has set itself apart in the industry with paid InsurTech products for consumers, such as one that it says allows them to cancel for any reason. When booking on Hopper, those services are offered as pop-ups multiple times before a consumer can finalize a booking.
As Skift covered exclusively in July, Expedia said the cut was made because it believed that Hopper has features that “exploit consumer anxiety and confuse customers.”
Kern gave an example during the forum: “When we looked at it, you could book a flight with us in six clicks, which is best in class. On Hopper, it was 27 clicks. Now, you can all decide whether you like that or don’t like that, or decide what you think they sell is good or bad. That’s up to everybody else. We made our decision, which was that we didn’t think it was consistent with how we want consumers to experience our products or our partners’ products.”
Hopper said at the time that Expedia made the move with an “anti-competitive” motivation.
Kern said Wednesday that the split is part of a normal process Expedia takes as it’s been growing its base of business customers, and Hopper has evolved a lot since the partnership was initially formed.
“We’re very consistent about this,” Kern said. “We have turned off a few partners here and there over time, for a variety of reasons that often have to do with abuse of rates, or sales practices, many times encouraged by our supply partners who don’t Unlike what is happening, or what’s happening at their hotels, when people show up with those prices from those places
Frederic Lalonde, the CEO of Hopper, will speak onstage at the Skift Global Forum on Thursday morning in a one-on-one session moderated by Schaal.
One Key Loyalty and Upcoming AI Products
It was the culmination of three years of technological work, Kern said.
He said that 70 million people have been moved into the program already, and now Vrbo customers are being added.
One Key is available in the U.S. only right now, and it will be available across the rest of the world next year.
“It’s really just an all-inclusive way to get people to use everything in our universe and to get the benefit of everything we have,” Kern said.
Expedia early this year released a simple ChatGPT integration for travel planning on its website, and it was among the first cohort of companies to get a plugin on ChatGPT Plus.
Though the AI chatbot on the mobile app has not necessarily stood out among an increasing number of similar tools, he said that the early experimentation is paying off. Now, the company is working on a number of products that it said will be powered by generative AI.
“Because we were first, we’ve learned along the way,” Kern said.
Expedia Group last week said it was launching a new program called EG Labs to give some consumers early access to tests of new tech products for Expedia, Hotels.com, and Vrbo. Examples include a trip planner, a tool to sift through reviews, and a tool to answer questions about hotels and vacation rentals.
Expedia recently announced it will be penalizing short-term rental hosts on Vrbo for canceling too many bookings.
Kern addressed the decision during the session: “Like most marketplaces, a few bad actors can spoil the whole thing. And so we’re just trying to reward the good actors, because those partners do great, and make sure that if there are bad actors, we’re not letting them impact our customers.”
Skift Global Forum 2023 Coverage
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