On its 15th anniversary, Hotwire's CEO looks aheadNews / Distribution | OnlineBy Viewpoints | October 15, 2015Share This article was originally published on Today Hotwire, the online travel company owned by Expedia Inc, celebrates its fifteenth birthday.In light of that, I’ve been taking some time to look back at the phenomenal ways in which the online travel industry has changed since 2000, and where the industry, and Hotwire, is headed.NB: This is a guest viewpoint by Henrik Kjellberg, CEO of Hotwire.Online travel has seen vast innovation in the last fifteen years. For instance, at the end of the last millennium, right before I joined Expedia, and subsequently Hotwire, I ran a small online travel agency in Sweden called MrJet.com.We were trying to replicate in Europe what some US-based travel companies were starting to achieve -- bringing accessible online air travel booking to customers. It was still a clunky process in Europe, and the ability to find hotel rooms online was practically nonexistent.Wow has that experience changed in the last 15 years!Perhaps the biggest and most important stride the travel industry has made in that time is making the overall customer experience so much smoother. And while many of the companies that have thrived are technology-based, they’re not thriving just because of technology, but because technology is creating a better experience for the consumer.Not only is the information available to consumers today better, but the booking process is intuitive and seamless and prices are quite transparent.At Hotwire in particular, we’ve worked hard as the market has evolved and we are better positioned now than we ever have been to deliver on our brand promise to empower people to take more trips.What do we think is the future of semi-opaque, one of our types of products?We think there is still a great opportunity for opaque, because in today’s environment the pricing picture is really getting similar across sites.Opaque offers a great value – a truly distinct price for customers and a great opportunity for our hotel partners to increase sales without diluting their brand.We want to make travel possible for consumers no matter what kind of trip they’re planning and the opaque model helps us offer prices that we couldn’t offer without it.At the same time, we understand it’s not for everyone, so we offer retail, too. But the semi-opqude model is here to stay in the mix because there’s a need for it. So we are committed to it.Now the “old” opaque model -- whether it was Name-Your-Own-Price or a very static opaque -- will naturally shrink unless a company continues to innovate and show consumers and partners meaningful upgrades.The latter response is what we have been doing at Hotwire. We have been making our offerings better for our customers by adding neighborhood content, by enabling more channels, by getting smarter about knowing who a traveler is as they make that purchase.Equally, for our partners, we have been investing in improved connectivity models, in improved ways of showcasing the value of properties whether that be by property type, or by allowing consumers to look for the best-rated hotels (and not just the lowest-priced).We know the Hot Rate model does well in an economic down-cycle, but we are also proving that we can thrive in great economic times. Yet it requires a focus on innovation, and that is exactly what we will continue to do.What is specifically on the agenda for Hotwire on the technology or marketing side in 2016?We’re helping customers better pinpoint neighborhoods they want to stay in.On mobile this year we introduced car on Android, retail (all hotels) across our apps, and are in the process of rolling that out on our mobile web product, too.We are seeing our strongest growth rates across our mobile devices and think this is largely due to the innovation we have shown here. Our consumers already love the really simple, clean interface we offer on mobile.It's been an amazing 15 years. So what do I think we’ll see over the next five to fifteen years?Expect to see travelers take more spontaneous, shorter trips. As the pace of life continues to speed up, more and more people will choose shorter, last-minute weekend trips vs. planning long elaborate getaways.Nearly three-quarters of Hotwire customers’ hotel bookings are within a week of departure and more than 90 percent for the last 12 months are for four days or less.I also expect to see a continued shift towards mobile is going to be the dominant booking device by far, and we’ll continue to see innovation in wearables and other new gizmos.Another trend I expect to see is the impact of the Millennials.As the Millennial generation continues to evolve -- make more money, start having families etc. -- we’ll see them travel even more. And this is a generation that loves to share their experiences with others, which will just continue to enrich the information that is available and out there for travelers.At Hotwire, we truly do consider ourselves to be travel geeks. We are people who want to be spontaneous and take those last-minute trips, and we’ve made it our mission to enable our customers to do the same.By helping people get up and go, they’re taking more trips and actually living more. And what’s a better cause for a birthday celebration than that?NB: This is a guest viewpoint by Henrik Kjellberg, CEO of Hotwire.