Executives from four online travel agencies from around the world reflect on how far their companies have come and discuss their next moves in The Phocuswright Conference session, “Executive Panel: The Bridge Series - The New World Beckons.” The session is part of the ongoing Bridge Series, a joint initiative by WiT and Phocuswright to provide a forum for industry leaders to exchange perspectives, ideas and solutions from across the world.
During the session, Mathias Hedlund, CEO of Etraveli Group AB, says the Sweden-based company is on the cusp of transitioning “from trailblazer to titan” as it extends further into markets outside Europe.
“We always have to think globally because the [Swedish] market is too small,” Hedlund says. “But that’s a positive, because it means that you have to - from the beginning - adapt to and do complex things, and you’re not rewarded by just serving your market.”
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Hedlund says he feels “very confident” that, together, Etraveli and Booking.com are “going to take a lot of market share in Europe.” Booking Holdings acquired Etraveli Group for €1.63 billion in 2021, but the transaction is pending competition clearance.
Indonesia-based Traveloka, a travel and lifestyle platform, has transformed the way people pay for flights in Southeast Asia, according to Caesar Indra, the company's president.
In a region with low credit-card use, the company developed a tech solution to enable it to scale up bank-to-bank transfers, and “now we have more than 30 payment methods across Southeast Asia,” Indra says.
Following a recent $300 million funding round, Traveloka continues to employ a “very local strategy” that creates “a seamless and connected travel experience [for] our customers and … a strong pipeline with our suppliers,” according to Indra.
As a result, he adds, the company has strong brand loyalty across its six markets and high engagement on the app, with 40 million monthly active users.
With digital payments expected to represent 91% of e-commerce transactions in Southeast Asia by 2025, Traveloka will continue to invest in payment infrastructure, Indra says. The company developed a buy-now-pay-later option to help customers afford travel.
Look under the hood if you haven’t been in the industry long: Everybody’s trading inventory and content with literally everybody.
Brett Keller - Priceline
Brett Keller, CEO of Priceline, a subsidiary of Booking Holdings, says that for several years after the company launched in 1998, it served as a marketplace for “any product or service you could think of,” including new cars, groceries and insurance.
In the early 2000s, Priceline acquired Booking.com, then a relatively small hotel booking site, for $133 million.
“Now we have a $70 billion market cap, and that was probably the greatest travel acquisition in the history of time,” Keller says.
Booking Holdings acquired B2B hotel room distributor Getaroom in 2021 for $1.2 billion. The Priceline brand rolled Getaroom into its existing B2B business.
“This is an industry where everybody works together,” Keller adds. “Look under the hood if you haven’t been in the industry long: Everybody’s trading inventory and content with literally everybody.”
Damian Scokin, CEO of Despegar, says the company continues to dominate the Latin America market through its size, but “you have to continue adding features and services” to differentiate yourself from “a growing number of companies.”
Argentina-based Despegar acquired Best Day Travel Group in Mexico for $136 million in 2020. The OTA also acquired three Brazilian companies over the course of two years, including Koin, a Brazilian buy-now-pay-later company.
Scokin says Despegar is “extremely happy with the results” of its Koin purchase because “they bring a different set of customer” that otherwise might not use Despegar.
Watch the entire discussion below with moderators Pete Comeau, managing director of Phocuswright, and Siew Hoon Yeoh, founder and editorial director of WiT.
Executive Panel: The Bridge Series - The New World Beckons - The Phocuswright Conference 2022