While one U.S. administration is getting ready to pack up things in the White House and Trump or Clinton hope to redecorate the place on their own, it could be an opportune time to sneak a Priceline-TripAdvisor or Google-TripAdvisor marriage past those sometimes-pesky antitrust regulators.
The German regulator's ruling to reject Booking.com's reformed hotel rate practices as not going far enough could be a landmark decision if it holds up upon appeal and if other European countries follow Germany's lead. Booking.com may have the leverage to inhibit hotel partners from getting carried away on discounting but the ruling is a victory for consumers nonetheless.
It was a helluva ride but the Expedia-Orbitz deal was never in serious jeopardy because there is plenty of competition despite the Expedia-Travelocity-Orbitz consolidation. But if Expedia gets greedy in the future and uses its new powers unwisely, you can bet that regulators will pounce.
We said all along that increased competition from Booking.com and TripAdvisor's burgeoning power as a hotel-booking site would be enough to get the Expedia-Orbitz deal approved. The Antitrust Division saw Google as an up-and-coming force in flight and hotel bookings, as well.
TripAdvisor is already a must-have for travel marketers, including Expedia and Booking.com. But how big a force the Justice Department believes TripAdvisor will become in hotel booking in the near future could be an Orbitz-Expedia deal-maker or breaker.
With the emergence of TripAdvisor and Google as online travel agency alternatives and Amazon waiting in the wings if it ever figures out what it wants to do in travel, all the signs point toward an increasingly competitive online travel agency market in the U.S. These are factors the DOJ will consider when mulling the Expedia-Orbitz deal.
The shareholder vote on the Expedia deal at Orbitz Worldwide was never in doubt. The $1.3 billion transaction will likely get through the U.S. Department of Justice review, as well, although perhaps Expedia will have to make some concessions.
Old metasearch sites, like old soldiers, don't die. They just fade away. That may be the case for Google Hotel Finder as Google's hotel listings right on the first search results page funnel users in a streamlined way to Google's hotel ads.
How deep will the concessions be that the European Commission will be able to coax out of Google? And will the U.S. Federal Trade Commission be embarrassed into action?