Leveraging the power of the Expedia Group platform and connecting customers and partners more intelligently are key components of Mark Okerstrom’s objective to make the travel giant locally relevant on a global scale, the president and CEO reinforced at the company’s Explore event in Las Vegas yesterday.
With more than three billion monthly search combinations and two billion daily data exchanges across the Expedia Group platform, data, he says, is critical to “drive change for the better” and enhance product development.
Cyril Ranque, group president of Travel Partners Group, adds: “Expedia Group is evolving into a full-service platform,” which means it not only is aiming to attract new customers and increase revenue, but it’s also endeavoring to better serve guests.
Part of this effort includes removing “silos” from across Expedia Group businesses and leveraging the company’s technology across the platform.
Sharing services across the group allow for more robust platform components to be built, he continues, and to make products more personalized and relevant.
He cites Vrbo as an example of a business that used Expedia Group technology to “break siloes” and bring visibility to suppliers.
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Ranque also says removing friction from the travel experience is Expedia Group’s “Everest” goal, and through partnership the company can take on the challenge.
“Frictionless travel is our joint responsibility to make our services more insightful and more intuitive,” he says. “This is our job and we do it on a daily basis.”
Ariane Gorin, president of Expedia Partner Solutions, says partnerships are based on “trust” and points to work Expedia is doing with United Airlines on a VIP access program, unveiled last week, which gives the airline’s top members benefits at hotels.
The partnership that’s caused the most buzz in recent months is Expedia Group’s deal with Marriott International, which gives the online travel agency exclusive distribution rights to the hotel chain’s wholesale room rates.
The deal, which was announced in September and went into effect in October, came about because Marriott found it was taking too much time sourcing rates and wanted to simplify and bring transparency to the process, and Expedia Partner Solutions had the answer, Gorin says.
“They said, ‘This distribution thing is messy’ … and they were also concerned with room rates and fares showing up appropriately.
“It was a perfect match between the problem they were trying to solve and the technology and business capabilities we have at Expedia. By leveraging the platform, Marriott gets time back to develop the perfect in-stay experience for guests.”
When asked if the partnership is exclusive with Marriott or if distribution deals with more hotel brands are on the cards, Ranque says Expedia wanted to “start with a partner that had a forward-looking view of transforming travel” and that had a size big enough to have a material impact.
“I think the question for us is how do we build solutions that are productized so we can pass them through multiple chains, then potentially produce an independent product.”
Gorin says doing deals with other brands will be dependent on them providing wholesales rate to Expedia and not to other partners to ensure one single distribution pipeline.
“Marriott is also looking across businesses where there are other things to put on the table that can expand the pie.”
* This reporter’s attendance at the event was covered by Expedia Group.
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