Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tour Operators

ToursByLocals Appoints Lisa Chen as New CEO

8 months ago

ToursByLocals has appointed Lisa Chen as its new CEO. The leadership change comes as co-founder and former CEO Paul Melhus steps into the role of Executive Chairman of the Board.

Chen initially joined the company in February 2023 as president and brings extensive experience from her previous executive roles at Expedia and Disney.

With 135 core employees, over and above the guides who list on the platform from across 190 countries, the Canadian-based ToursByLocals hit its 2 million customers milestone in May 2023.

Tritium Partners, investors in the company’s $33 million Series A raise just before the pandemic, said it was confident in Chen’s experience to head up the business as a two-sided marketplace.

Online Travel

Ask Skift: Expedia’s Short-Term Rental Strategy

12 months ago

Ask Skift is our artificial intelligence chatbot that offers a new way for readers to better engage with our breadth of knowledge and our latest experimentation creating products travel professionals rely on. It digs into news stories, Skift Research reports, Airline Weekly issues, Skift Live events, the Daily Lodging Report, and more to answer many questions about the travel industry.

Here are three questions we asked it about Expedia’s short-term rental business.

How has Expedia’s short-term rental business changed over the last 5 years?
Over the last 5 years, Expedia has been working on diversifying its offerings, including expanding its short-term rental business. However, the company has faced challenges in integrating its various product offerings across its many brands. For instance, Vrbo’s short-term rental inventory was long siloed from Expedia’s other offerings (12/05/2022). Expedia has also made acquisitions and created new businesses to address the short-term rental market, but some of these experiments have been shut down to focus on the core business, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic (05/26/2020).

As the short-term rental industry has evolved, Expedia has had to adapt to the increasing convergence between different accommodation sectors. Platforms like Expedia and Booking.com have started to mix various types of accommodations in their search results, making it harder to define what is included in the short-term rental or vacation rental sector (12/03/2020).

Overall, Expedia’s short-term rental business has seen changes and challenges over the last 5 years as the company works to diversify its offerings and adapt to the evolving accommodation landscape.
What is Expedia’s main short-term rental brand and why?
Expedia’s main short-term rental brand is Vrbo (previously HomeAway). Vrbo operates an online marketplace for alternative accommodations, focusing on whole-home vacation rentals. It has localized websites around the world and serves as a platform for families to find the space they need to relax, reconnect, and enjoy their time away together. Expedia Group, which owns Vrbo, has broader interests in the travel industry, including other brands like Expedia.com and Hotels.com. However, Vrbo stands out as their primary brand in the short-term rental market due to its focus on whole-home rentals and family travel experiences.
What is the difference between the business models of Airbnb and Vrbo?
Airbnb and Vrbo have different business models in terms of property types and target markets. Airbnb offers a variety of property types, including apartments, private rooms, and vacation rentals, catering to a wide range of guests. On the other hand, Vrbo focuses primarily on whole homes, targeting families and larger groups looking for vacation rentals in destination resort areas.

Airbnb’s adaptable business model allows it to offer the right type of supply in many parts of the world, depending on market conditions. This diverse supply enables Airbnb to continue growing in various segments. In contrast, Vrbo’s focus on whole homes may limit its growth potential in certain markets.

Additionally, Airbnb has a broader brand recognition and attracts more direct traffic and bookings compared to Vrbo. Airbnb has also been more nimble in adapting to market changes, such as transitioning to emphasize long-term stays faster than its competitors.

In terms of host and property manager relationships, Airbnb has been trying to downplay professional hosts, while Vrbo adopts a hybrid approach, catering to both individual homeowners and professional property managers. Airbnb has been increasing its share of professionally managed vacation rental bookings but still mostly serves lower-value rentals, contributing less to overall revenue for professional property managers compared to Vrbo.

Overall, the main differences between Airbnb and Vrbo’s business models lie in their property types, target markets, adaptability, and relationships with hosts and property managers.

Ideas

IDEAS: The Power of Emotional Storytelling in Expedia’s Latest Campaign

1 year ago

With “Wisdom & Obi,” the creative team at Expedia have successfully captured the essence of travel.

Travel is all about creating lasting memories and experiences that stay with us long after the journey has ended. Travel advertising is no exception – it should seek to capture the imagination of its audience and inspire them to explore new places, try new things and create unforgettable moments. But how do travel brands achieve this? Expedia’s in-house creative team might just have the answer.

Source: Expedia.

With this campaign, Expedia has shifted its advertising approach, focussing on the compelling force of inclusive storytelling, with this latest ad showcasing the emotional connection between a father and son and exploring the universal feeling of nostalgia that travel so often creates.

By tapping into our emotions, travel brands can create narratives that resonate with audiences on a personal level, which is something the Expedia team has done very successfully with this new campaign. As the video says, “You were made to remember some days forever, we were made to help you find the best way there.”

Wisdom & Obi, Expedia.

This post is a part of Skift Ideas, which highlights exciting new creative projects, campaigns, designs, and future-making ideas across the travel industry. Skift will also feature a number of leading projects across travel at our 5th annual Skift IDEA Awardswhich has become the travel industry’s most coveted achievement for excellence in innovation, design, experience, and now, automation.

Learn more at: https://live.skift.com/skift-idea-awards-2023/

Tags: expedia

Hotels

Australia’s Webjet Launches Tool to Weed Out Rogue Hotel Rates

1 year ago

With hotels seeing a big bounce in bookings, so too can they expect to see more so-called rogue rates creeping back. These are rates that they’ve not authorized, and are a common complaint. Now one of the major bedbank players has developed a platform to help hotels fix any rogue rates they spot.

WebBeds, the accommodation marketplace owned by Australia’s Webjet, has launched a tool called Parity Monitor. It will first act as a hub where hotels can submit parity discrepancies to WebBeds, which connects accommodation providers to a network of 44,000 offline and online travel buyers.

It’s just the first phase of a program, as later it will let its hotel partners track, monitor, report back and eventually resolve rate discrepancies. WebBeds also said it had set up a centralised team dedicated to resolving parity issues.

“WebBeds is very aware of the frustrations that our hotel partners experience when there are rate parity discrepancies in the market,” said WebBeds CEO Daryl Lee.

Expedia Group and Marriott International have already partnered to curb the practice, and last year said they’d reduced the unauthorized distribution of wholesale hotel rates across metasearch websites by 80 percent.

Online Travel

Google Flights and Hotels Make Europe-Mandated Transparency Changes … in Europe

1 year ago

Google made changes to Google Flights and Hotels related to transparency in hotel reviews and pricing under pressure from the European Commission — but stopped short of making those modifications elsewhere in the world.

“Reviews aren’t verified,” Google states in the European Union. Source: Google

At the behest of the European Commission, Google added text in hotel reviews in European Union countries, noting “Reviews aren’t verified.”

Unlike online travel agencies, Google doesn’t take bookings so it would be hard-pressed to verify user reviews. Tripadvisor, likewise, doesn’t verify hotel reviews for the same reason.

Clicking further into Google’s explanatory language about user reviews in Europe, Google states that it accepts reviews from signed-in users — there’s no requirement that they ever stayed at that particular hotel — and licenses reviews from third-parties. “Google doesn’t do any additional filtering for spam or inappropriate language beyond that done by the provider, nor do we verify these reviews,” Google states.

The European Commission stated that Google accepted this disclosure about hotel reviews and additional transparency commitments that other hotel-booking platforms such as Expedia Group and Booking.com agreed to on pricing and availability.

“The commitments made by Google are a step forward in this direction. We call on Google to comply fully with  the Geo-blocking Regulation, ensuring that consumers can enjoy the same rights and access the same content, wherever they are in the EU,” European Commission Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in the announcement statement.

Google agreed to these changes about user reviews, consented to disclose that Google Flights and Google Hotels is merely a middleman, and agreed to provide greater clarity when presenting discounted pricing, explaining that such deals are merely a reference point. But Google decided to make these changes in Europe only — and not in other geographies around the world where regulators were not providing heat.

“As part of our ongoing dialogue with the European Commission and the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation Network, we have made changes to our products that provide a clear benefit and protect consumers,” a Google spokesperson stated. “We appreciate the partnership on this topic and are open to constructive dialogue with all consumer associations and regulators.”

Google’s hotel reviews in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world have no added language explaining the reviews are not verified. So travelers might erroneously believe that everyone writing reviews about these hotels actually stayed a night or two there.

A Google hotel review module in the U.S. has no language to let travelers know that the reviews are not verified reviews. Source: Google

Google frequently talks about helping travelers and other consumers to discover information as being one of its top priorities. However, the search engine giant, perhaps in the interests of providing a cleaner user interface that wouldn’t get in the way of users clicking on hotel ads, sacrificed transparency for expediency in the rest of the world.

Google is not alone in doing what regulators demand in one geography, but not expanding it to other regions for the good of consumers. For example, for several years Airbnb has shown the total price of stays, including taxes, up-front in the European Union at the urging of the European Commission. However, it was only this year that Airbnb became displaying the total rate, albeit without taxes included, instead of just the nightly rate without fees at first glance, in other geographies.

Business Travel

Travelport Is Selling Off Its Corporate Hotel Booking Platform Hotelzon

1 year ago

Travelport is planning to sell its Hotelzon division to corporate travel agency startup TripStax, which was officially launched earlier this year — by two former execs at Travelport.

Hotelzon claims to offer 1.5 million properties from multiple content sources that include Booking.com and Expedia, and says it has 370,000 users, including travel agencies, corporations and event management companies.

It was established in 1972, but has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Travelport since 2014.

TripStax signed the agreement to acquire Hotelzon as of Dec. 1 2022. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but TripStax said the agreement establishes a “long-term strategic relationship between TripStax and Travelport whereby Hotelzon will continue to generate hotel bookings on Travelport+.”

Travelport has been streamlining its technology since it announced Travelport+ in April last year.

Skift first revealed the development of TripStax as a spin-off from corporate travel agency ATPI in July 2021. TripStax’s investors include Intermediate Capital Group, which is one of ATPI Group’s owners. ATPI also made a significant investment, with ATPI CEO Ian Sinderson joining TripStax as a director.

Jack Ramsey, CEO of TripStax, was previously global sales director at Hotelzon.

The Unbundling Trend

TripStax said the acquisition will boost its technology offering of “connected proprietary business travel modules with a fully integrated hotel booking tool for agencies and corporates direct.”

The travel agency startup wants to stand out from the crowd by offering modules, such as analytics, content and traveler tracking, rather than a full service. Corporate travel agencies are under growing pressure to separate their bundled services as company travel managers look to cut costs and add flexibility.

Hotelzon will be integrated as an additional module.

It is the second acquisition made by TripStax, following its purchase of TapTrip earlier in the year. TapTrip also received investment from ATPI.

“Since its conception, TripStax has been on the look-out for acquisitions which add relevant and complementary tech to its already powerful stack of business travel management modules,” said Ramsay. “We are also excited to welcome the hugely experienced Hotelzon team to the TripStax business and plan to further invest in the team to strengthen existing customer and supplier relationships and realise the full potential of this joint opportunity.”

Online Travel

Expedia Partners With Buy Now Pay Later App Afterpay

2 years ago

Travelers booking flights and hotels from Expedia in a co-branded feature in the Afterpay app can now choose to pay in four interest-free payments over six weeks, Expedia announced.

crowded airliner cabin
Passengers inside a plane. Source: Getty Images.

“Expedia Group is proud to become Afterpay’s first major U.S. travel partner,” said Senior Vice President Media and Brand Partnerships Christian Gerron, Expedia Group. “This highlights our ongoing growth in developing cutting-edge traveler technologies that provide our partners with new ways to deliver great experiences to their customers which, in turn, drive customer loyalty.”

Nerdwallet said Afterpay charges late fees, and puts customer accounts on hiatus after a missed payment, but doesn’t transfer customers to collection agencies.

“Expedia Group also plans to expand this initiative with additional brands in the future,” Expedia said.

Online Travel

Veteran Vrbo Exec Jeff Hurst Is Leaving as Expedia Poaches Another Googler

2 years ago

Longtime Vrbo executive Jeff Hurst, who was chief operating officer of Expedia brands and formerly Vrbo’s president, is leaving the company.

Jeff Hurst, a former Vrbo president, at an Expedia Group conference in Las Vegas in 2019. Source: Expedia Group.

This follows the exit in September of John Kim, who was president of Expedia Marketplace, and last month became executive vice president and chief product officer at PayPal.

Expedia Group announced earlier this week that Brad Bentley, most previously president and CEO of clean energy company Inspire, would become chief operating officer of Expedia brands, taking Hurst’s role.

Hurst had been with Expedia/Vrbo and predecessor company HomeAway since 2010.

Kim has worked at Expedia/HomeAway since 2011.

Following Expedia Group hiring former Google travel advertising director Rob Torres in April, Expedia stated this week that it hired Tript Singh Lamba, most previously head of head of product for YouTube ad monetization and personalization at Google, as senior vice president of consumer product for Expedia product & technology.

Bentley will report to Jon Gieselman, president, Expedia Brands, including Expedia, Vrbo and Hotels.com. Lamba will report to Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group’s chief technology officer and president, Expedia product & technology.

“Building long-lasting direct traveler relationships and operating more effectively with our capital allocation are core components of our B2C strategy,” Giselman said in the announcement statement. “It is critical to have a leader that understands all the complicated investment tradeoffs between customer acquisition, engagement, and retention, and can apply that experience to our planning, operating model, and daily operations. Brad’s substantial operational experience with direct-to-consumer products puts our Brands division in a position to thrive even more.”

Expedia didn’t announce a reason for Hurst’s departure, and a spokesperson characterized it as merely a leadership change after Hurst’s more than 10 years of accomplishments at Expedia and HomeAway.

Hurst didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Online Travel

Expedia Group Launches a Startup Accelerator To Foster Innovation on Its Platform

2 years ago

Expedia Group announced the launch of a startup accelerator to empower innovation on its business to business platform.

Selected startups — and small businesses, as well — would get technology and business development support, mentorship from Expedia Group personnel as well as outside experts, a non-equity grant, and access to the Expedia Group platform and products.

Companies can apply to the Open World Accelerator program by October 21 here. To qualify they must be striving to make the travel industry “more open and accessible,” be less than a decade old, and already have at least a minimum viable product.

Archana Arunkumar, Senior Vice President of Platform. “Expedia Group’s mission is to power travel for everyone, everywhere,” said Archana Arunkumar, Expedia Group’s senior vice president of platform in a statement. “Open World Accelerator is specifically designed to drive innovation in the industry, remove barriers to travel, and enable startups and SMBs to build capabilities on Expedia’s Open World™ technology platform that significantly improve the experience for every traveler.”

Tour Operators

Tours and Activities Companies Launch Standards Association

2 years ago

Nearly three dozen tours and activities operators, reservation systems, and distributors debuted a non-profit association geared to formulate connectivity standards.

Source: Reuters

The 501c3 association, Open Connectivity for Tours, Activities & Attractions intends to promote an open source specification “to enable reservation and ticketing system providers and tour, activity and attraction ticket sellers to connect their systems for more efficient distribution,” the group announced Tuesday.

Founding members of the group include Arival, Checkfront, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Go City, Holibob, Peek, Tiqets, TUI Musement, Ventrata, Xola and Zaui.

Several major booking platforms, including Viator, GetYourGuide, Klook, Booking.com and Expedia weren’t part of the launch announcement.