I caught up with Expedia Inc. President and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi this afternoon, a couple of hours before he was scheduled to appear on center stage before all the attendees at the PhoCusWright conference in Orlando Nov. 19.
I asked Khosrowshahi, who was decked out in a pinstripe suit as we sat outdoors in the Florida sun, whether he expected to be breaking any news in his "executive interview" with PhoCusWright President and CEO Philip Wolf later in the afternoon.
Referring to a recent contract battle with Choice Hotels, Khosrowshahi said he didn't think so because "we've made enough news lately."
Khosrowshahi declined to get into any of the contract details, but said the Choice contract is similar to deals with other chains, adding, "I was confident we'd get it done."
Looking to upcoming deals with major chains, Khosrowshahi said typically renewals with large chains are almost prenegotiated in the months leading up to contract expirations.
"I certainly don't see any big disruptions coming up," Khosrowshahi said.
Then, we turned our attention to the strides being made by Priceline's Booking.com and the prospects for Expedia's Venere hotel business in Europe and Asia.
I asked him if he's nervous about Booking.com and I got a surprise answer.
"Of course, I'm nervous about Booking.com," Khosrowshahi said, adding that Booking.com's trajectory is encouraging because it shows that there is plenty of room for growth if a company "executes well."
Khosrowshahi noted that Expedia's Easy Manage program, which uses the agency model for small and independent hotels in Europe and Asia-Pacific, has signed some 6,500 properties.
He said the merchant model is most appropriate in large tourist destinations, and having both models at the company's disposal is advantageous.
The Expedia CEO also said the company would monitor the tack that Orbitz Worldwide is taking with a modified agency model in Asia-Pacific to see if would be worth adopting or not.
In response to a question, Khosrowshahi said Priceline's exploding market cap, which recently surpassed Expedia's, is another "encouraging sign" because it shows how the market is growing.
"Priceline's market cap didn't come at anyone else's expense," Khosrowshai said, noting that Expedia's market cap has tripled this year.
There have been numerous rumors over the last year about online travel agency consolidation, but Khosrowshahi discounts the buzz, saying he doesn't expect large-scale consolidation in the short term because you usually don't see such consolidation in a growth market.
Depending on the number of small and independent hotels that sign on, Khosrowshahi believes TripAdvisor's new Business Listings product, where hotels on TripAdvisor can display their URLs for direct bookings, could be a significant revenue stream for the Expedia Inc. unit.
"It looks good on paper," he says, adding that theoretically there is always the possibility when you introduce a new advertising product that it could cannibalize other advertising.
"If we don't build a good product," Khosrowshai said, referring to Business Listings, "then someone else will."
Looking into his crystal ball, Khosrowshahi said he believes the advertising/media business will be "the most significant mover" over the next few years.
Media revenue, including that from Expedia Inc.'s TripAdvisor business, accounted for some $300 million, or roughly 10%, of Expedia Inc.'s $2.9 billion in revenue in 2008.
It wasn't exactly a headline, but Khosrowshahi said he believes that percentage will grow.
He said there is a huge opportunity in the media business, but it hasn't scaled yet and there has been no product out there "to move the needle."
Khosrowshahi expects that needle-mover in the media business will emerge over the next five years.