Skift Travel News Blog

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

Business Travel

Travelport Is Selling Off Its Corporate Hotel Booking Platform Hotelzon

2 months 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 months 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

3 months 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

4 months 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

4 months 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.

Online Travel

Expedia Group Names Julie Whalen as Chief Financial Officer, First Woman There in This Leading Role

5 months ago

Expedia Group appointed board member Julie Whalen as the company’s new chief financial officer, replacing Eric Hart, effective September 26.

Whalen, the first female leader at this level at the company, will lead Expedia Group’s global finance organization, and will have a high-profile position, helping to explain the company’s performance during earnings call and conferences. She will remain on the Expedia board as a non-independent member.

Julie Whalen, the new Expedia Group chief financial officer. Source: Expedia Group

Hart, who has been with Expedia Group for more than 13 years, and the company’s chief financial officer since 2019, will stay on for a brief transition period until October 1, and will remain on the supervisory board of Trivago, an Expedia Group brand, as well as on the board of the Global Business Travel Group, where Expedia is an investor.

Expedia Group said Hart will “pursue new opportunities.”

“Mr. Hart’s separation did not result from any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to the Company’s or Expedia’s operations, policies or practices, including accounting principles and practices,” Expedia Group stated in a financial filing.

Whalen has been chief financial officer of Williams-Sonoma since 2012. Her estimated total compensation, as announced in 2021, was nearly $6 million.

“Ms. Whalen also has been a key proponent of driving the company’s ESG- [Environmental, Social and Governance] related priorities,” Williams-Sonoma said in a financial filing in April.

Whalen was a member of the Expedia Group board’s audit committee since June 2019, and has chaired the committee since 2020.

Hart also had the Expedia Group title chief strategy officer. Whalen does not have that official role.

Online Travel

Expedia Vet John Kim Leaving to Be PayPal Chief Product Officer

5 months ago

Expedia’s John Kim is stepping down to take a new role at PayPal as executive vice president, chief product officer, beginning Sept. 26.

Kim, who was once in the running to replace CEO Mark Okerstrom after his shock departure in 2019, leaves after a stint of more than 10 years at the travel brand. He was most recently president of Expedia Marketplace.

He’s also served as president of HomeAway/Vrbo after it was acquired by Expedia in 2015. Kim was credited as leading Vrbo’s transition from a largely subscription business toward a digital business where many management companies and hosts pay commissions per booking instead of an annual fee.

Previously he worked at Yahoo, Overture, Accenture, Bank of America and Pelago.

At PayPal, Kim will lead the consumer and merchant product and engineering teams, the company said. He succeeds current chief product officer Mark Britto, who will remain with PayPal for a transition period, before retiring at the end of this year.

PayPal has made several key hires this year, including adding a new chief financial officer and information officer.

Online Travel

Google Travel Grabs Larger Share of U.S. Desktop Traffic During Pandemic

6 months ago

Google Travel’s flight and hotel offerings gained the most desktop traffic market share in the U.S. during the pandemic while Tripadvisor lost the most on a percentage basis, according to Similarweb’s June data.

“Google Travel now owns one-fourth of all (U.S.) desktop visits to top travel sites,” Similarweb said.

Similarweb

In its earnings call about second quarter financials Tuesday, Google said travel and retail were the drivers of its advertising revenue during the period.

The following chart shows Google Travel’s U.S. desktop market share increased 6 percentage points to 24 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of pre-pandemic 2019.

U.S. Desktop Market Share Traffic Gains/Losses H1 2019 Versus H1 2022

Site20192022
Google Travel18%24%
Booking.com14%16%
Airbnb14%15%
Expedia13%13%
Southwest6%6%
Vrbo4%6%
Marriott5%5%
Delta8%4%
TripAdvisor9%4%

Source: Simillarweb

“Booking has also gained 2 percentage points of share in the U.S., and only Kayak (-1 percentage point), Delta (-4 percentage points), and TripAdvisor (-5 percentage points) have lost share,” Similarweb said.

There are two points to keep in mind: These numbers don’t include traffic from mobile devices, and traffic to Google Travel often gets sent along to online travel agency advertisers.

Online Travel

Booking Holdings Faces a Challenge Because of the Euro’s Fall

7 months ago

Much of the attention regarding the euro’s historic fall has focused on Americans getting cheaper vacations in Europe — and the converse for EU residents — but the euro’s reaching parity with the U.S. dollar obviously has business consequences too — and Booking Holdings will likely have to deal with a material adverse impact.

In a research note Wednesday, Jake Fuller of BTIG wrote that he expects an “11 point headwind” to Booking’s growth in bookings in second quarter results and through the rest of 2022 because of volatility in the euro and British pound.

Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport source reuters
Passengers of a flight from Amsterdam wearing protective face masks arrive at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, following the easing of measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Athens, Greece, June 15, 2020. Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis

BTIG estimated that Booking Holdings generates about 55 percent of its bookings in Europe. The company doesn’t break out the percentage. “Within Europe, we assume an 85-15 split between the euro and British pound,” the note said.

Booking Holdings’ exposure to the euro “is likely material, should impact the 3Q guide, and does not appear to be reflected in consensus numbers for the year,” the research note added.

Geography has played a major role in how various online travel agencies fared during the pandemic.

Expedia Group benefited throughout much of the pandemic when the U.S. domestic travel market boomed, particularly for stays in vacation rentals.

On the other hand, Booking Holdings suffered because Europe was slower to rid itself of lockdowns than the U.S., and now Booking has to cope with the euro falling to a low it hasn’t seen in two decades.

From a variety of reports, Booking Holdings appeared to be gaining market share in June, but the euro crisis could blunt some of the progress.

Online Travel

Charts: Big 3 Online Travel Companies Finish the First Half at 52-Week Stock Price Lows

7 months ago

Stubborn inflation and fears of recession pushed Airbnb, Booking Holdings, and Expedia Group toward marking 52-week stock price lows on Thursday, the last day of the second quarter, as seen in three charts below.

An Airbnb in Milan, Italy. Airbnb
Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance
Yahoo Finance

Airbnb, Expedia and Booking Holdings weren’t alone in their respective plunges, however. The Nasdaq Composite Index likewise was trading at a 52-week low.

These companies’ market caps were smallish compared with better times: Booking Holdings ($71.8 billion), Airbnb ($58 billion), and Expedia Group ($14.8 billion).

Many analysts had written off Booking Holdings as a fading also-ran after the blockbuster Airbnb IPO, but its market cap was considerably higher than Airbnb’s today, the end of the first half of the financial year.

Yahoo Finance

We reported Wednesday that traffic and bookings for the trio were soft in June as compared with June 2019, and this could be a sign of a less-robust summer travel season than what many had predicted.

SimilarWeb found that hotels and vacation rental sites took share from online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia.com in the first half of 2022.

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