How does the world's largest travel company, Expedia Inc., respond to the mind-numbing changes in the travel tech marketplace?
Expedia president and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, speaking today at the PhoCusWright conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., says the company can address the issue by building a culture that welcomes change.
"If you have a roadmap for everything you want to do in 2011, you are probably in trouble," Khosrowshahi said.
For example, Khosrowshahi says the parent company consciously structures its businesses so the Expedia.com, hotels.com and TripAdvisor management teams work independently so they can respond swiftly to developments.
What Khosrowshahi describes as the company's approach to the ever-changing travel tech environment collides with oft-heard arguments that it takes a protracted period for large travel companies to roll out new products and other initiatives.
And, statements about Expedia's hoped-for nimble culture also on the face of it seem to brush up against Khosrowshahi's stance toward social media, in particular.
He noted that Expedia's TripAdvisor unit developed a Facebook app, Trip Friends, but argued that it is too early in the game to develop a vision about social media.
Khosrowshahi said social media are more interesting today than a couple of years ago, and Expedia is pondering whether social media are attractive tools to acquire new customers or devices for locking in the OTA's best customers.
No big-picture verdicts yet, though.
On other issues, Khosrowshahi came out against the direct-connect model as espoused by American Airlines and perhaps other airlines.
"We’ve grown up with the [GDS] model and we don’t think there has been a need to change,” he said, adding that there are technological issues with direct connect.
Khosrowshahi also addressed the issue of OTA consolidation issue, saying it is invevitable in the long run.
In the interim, though, he said there is plenty of room for OTA growth, particularly in Europe and Asia.