Aug. 28th, 2015

  • Expedia/Orbitz merger delayed while DOJ reviews deal
  • Lufthansa direct-booking discounts rile agents and intermediaries
  • Montana rules OTAs must pay tax on booking fees
  • France forbids rate parity clauses by law
  • OTAs allowed to present arguments re: business models in Puerto Rico tax dispute
  • Danish competition watchdog closes probe into hotel-booking portals
  • Ryanair launches full-featured travel site to avoid dependence on 3rd parties
  • Industry insiders say Airbnb is evolving in to a direct threat to hotels; will focus on business travel

 

  Article Published
1. Expedia pushes back Orbitz termination date amid Justice Department review Expedia is holding off on its acquisition of Orbitz announced in February. The Bellevue-based travel giant pushed back the termination date on the merger agreement from Aug. 12 to Nov. 12. From GeekWire Mon. Aug. 17th
2. Lufthansa Offers Direct Booking Savings and Agents Aren’t Happy Other airlines will feel more comfortable charging fees to encourage travelers to book directly if Lufthansa’s plan works. Travel agents and other intermediaries will be in trouble if this becomes a trend. From Skift Travel News Fri. Aug. 28th
3. Court: Online companies must pay tax on booking fees Online travel companies such as Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia must pay Montana’s sales tax on lodging and car rentals for the fees they collect from customers. From The Montana Standard News Thu. Aug. 13th
4. France Forbids Rate Parity Clauses by Law The French National Assembly took an important decision by adopting in the final vote of the ‘Law Macron’ the deletion of any rate parity clauses from contracts between hoteliers and Online Travel Agents and qualifying the term of the contracts as “mandate contract”. This is the first decision at legislative level in Europe to ban explicitly rate parity clauses from such contracts. From Hotel News Resource Thu. July 30th
5. Travel Sites Can Dispute Biz Model In Puerto Rico Tax Row A Puerto Rico federal judge ruled Thursday that the island’s government-owned tourism company can’t stop Expedia Inc. and other online travel companies from presenting arguments about their “merchant model” in a trial over hotel taxes, finding prior court decisions left room for factual disputes under Puerto Rican law. From Law360 – Tax Thu. Aug. 27th
6. Danish competition watchdog closes probe into hotel-booking portals (No link)

The Danish competition authority has closed its investigation of hotel-booking portals. The authority considers changes that were made — by booking portals Expedia/Hotels.com and Booking.com themselves — to clauses that triggered the probe to be no longer harmful to competition, therefore there is no reason to continue the investigation. Specifically, hotels were previously prevented from offering lower prices on rival portals.

From MLex

7. Ryanair to take on online travel companies with new site Airline to go up against Skyscanner, Booking.com and others From Irish Times – Business Tue. Aug. 11th
8. Airbnb’s threat to hotels may be structural, going beyond tax fight Airbnb , originally a short-term rental listings platform, may become a direct threat to hotels, according to some asset managers and chain executives. The alarm was heightened when the San Francisco startup said it had signed 500 companies within one day of opening its travel management tool to businesses worldwide — bringing its total client list to more than 1,000 companies, such as Google, TBWA, and Salesforce.

From Tnooz News Feed

Wed. Aug. 26th

 

July 31st, 2015

  • DOJ Expedia-Orbitz merger approval may be imminent
  • Hotel industry applauds recent DC Appeals Court OTC ruling
  • OTAs continue market share growth
  • Amazon Travel doubles hotel coverage; Hires former Expedia exec
  • ‘China’s Airbnb’ valuation exceeds $1B
  • Asian luxury travel site announces $60M funding, led by Google
  • Tripping.com raises $16M for a search engine targeting alternative lodging
  • Expedia reports strong financial results

 

  Article Published
1. Expedia-Orbitz Merger Approval Could Be Soon As U.S. Senators Ask Justice Department To Take Hard Look Two U.S. Senators want the Justice Department to take a close look at the Expedia-Orbitz merger. The headshot in the above photo is of Expedia Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Two U.S. Senators, who are the ranking member and the chair of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust matters, asked the Department of Justice to review competition issues involved in Expedia Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Orbitz Worldwide . From Skift Travel News Thu. July 30th
2. Hotel Industry Applauds D.C. Court Of Appeals OTC Ruling The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), the sole national association representing all segments of the 1.8 million-employee lodging industry, today applauded the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals decision requiring online travel companies to pay more than $60 million in unpaid sales taxes and interest to the District of Columbia, asserting that these companies are liable to pay a sales tax on the amount charged to consumers rather than the amount paid to hotels for rooms. From Hospitality Net – Latest Industry News Mon. July 27th
3. OTAs continue to steal market sharePreliminary research sheds new light on cost of customer acquisition.

From HNN

Fri.July 31st
4. Amazon Travel Doubles Hotel Coverage and Hires Former Expedia Exec Amazon Destinations has been redesigned, emphasizing larger images. Amazon Skift Take: Officials at Booking.com and Expedia know their hotel businesses are so far ahead of Amazon’s nascent moves that they aren’t cowering in fear at the might of Amazon. From Skift Travel News Thu. July 30th
5. ‘China’s Airbnb’ rests easy over $1.3 billion valuation As the number of Chinese technology ventures valued at more than US$1 billion (S$1.37 billion) continues to increase, a frequently asked question is whether those startups are getting overvalued. Is there a tech bubble that is waiting to burst? At the Converge tech conference Thursday, a co-founder of a Chinese billion-dollar startup made a case for optimism on the future of China’s tech startup scene. From Asia One Business Thu. July 30th
6. Luxury travel site gets $60M backing led by Google Luxury online travel company Secret Escapes announced a $60 million funding round on Sunday, as it looks to expand its appeal to Asian holidaymakers. From CNBC Europe – Business News Fri. July 24th
7. Tripping.com Locates $16 Million for Alternative Lodgings Search Engine Non-hotel lodgings listed on metasearch site Tripping.com tripping.com Tripping.com in San Francisco has raised $16 million in Series B funding to grow a search engine that helps travelers find the best available vacation rentals in the locations and budget ranges they want. Led by Steadfast Financial, the deal comes as the number of non-hotel accommodations is growing world-wide and as travelers show increasing willingness to spend their time and budgets on these. HomeAway , Priceline, TripAdvisor and Airbnb capture just 22% of this market, leaving smaller regional or specialty players and other competitors a $78 billion slice of an estimated $100 billion global market. From Wall Street Journal Blogs Venture Capital Dispatch Tue. July 28th
8. Expedia Shares Fly As Room Night Growth Accelerates Expedia (EXPE) shares are taking off late Thursday as the online travel agency’s second-quarter results came out ahead of consensus views and said room night growth accelerated year over year. Adjusted earnings fell 13.6% to 89 cents a share, 4 cents above analyst estimates. Revenue grew 11% to $1.662 billion from last year, slightly above forecasts for $1.659 billion. Minus the impact of the strong dollar, revenue rose 25%, said the company. From Los Angeles Investor’s Business Daily – Technology News Thu. July 30th

 

 

July 24th, 2015

 

  • DC Appeals Court rules OTAs must pay $60 million in back taxes due to using amount they paid to hotels instead of what guests actually paid
  • Kayak experiments with a Booking.com look-alike site
  • TripAdvisor gives high-profile spots to paying hotel ads in new test
  • Tourism Australia sings major agreement with Expedia
  • OTA European Parity amendments have little real effect, say industry insiders
  • Expedia online strategy involves testing; gathering customer data

 

  Article Published
1. Appeals court rules top travel websites must pay D.C. $60 million in unpaid taxes The D.C. Court of Appeals has checked in with a hotel tax win for D.C. The Washington Post reports the court upheld a $60 million payment from seven of the top travel websites. This could be the largest payment ever received by the District’s tax office. It’s been a long road. The case, Expedia v. District of Columbia, began back in 2011. D.C. argued the companies, which included Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity and Travelscape, owed millions in unpaid taxes. From Washington DC Business Journal – Morning Call Fri. July 24th
2. Kayak Experiments as Booking.com Clone This is a small experiment on Kayak that turns the site into a Booking.com clone, complete with a Reserve button and no price comparisons. Kayak Skift Take: Is Kayak abandoning metasearch? Not likely at all. But why not test photos and merchandising messaging on a site that is a Kayak offshoot instead of a Booking.com clone? From Skift Travel News Thu. July 23rd
3. TripAdvisor gives high profile spot to paying hotels in new ad test TripAdvisor is piloting a series of new prominent advertising spots on some of its most important pages on the site. Visitors landing on one of TripAdvisor’s city pages, for example, will now see a paid-for placement from a partner, ahead of its “natural” listings. From Tnooz News Feed Thu. July 23rd
4. Tourism Australia partners with Expedia Tourism Australia and the Expedia group have signed a multi-million dollar three-year marketing partnership aimed at developing campaigns and content to increase international travel to Australia. The three year Memorandum of Understanding represents the first formal agreement which Tourism Australia has entered into with a global online travel agency. From CIM Magazine Latest News Wed. July 22nd
5. OTA European parity amendments change little Industry insiders are unimpressed with the recent announcement that Expedia will follow Booking.com’s decision to amend rate-parity agreements with hoteliers in Europe to allow them to post cheaper rates with other third-party online travel agencies. From Alltop Hotel Blogs Fri. July 24th
6. Intense testing and learning is now central to Expedia online strategy Expedia is gathering increasing data on customers and their behaviour using a “test and learn” process on its sites. The thinking behind “test and learn” is that anyone in the company, across all disciplines, can propose an idea, explain the hypothesis behind it and it will get voted on to decide whether it is tested. From Tnooz News Feed Tue. July 21st

 

 

July 17th, 2015

  • Skift FAQs on European rate parity reforms
  • Travel Technology Association (TTA) speaks out against airline policies which restrict fare and schedule info
  • Italian court overturns TripAdvisor fine
  • Is increasing OTA consolidation bad news for hotels?
  • Virtual, live travel concierges now featured on several travel apps
  • Booking.com looks to move in Airbnb’s home-stay market
  • Google is getting serious about hotel booking business
  • Activities sector ripe for inclusion in OTAs
  • Expedia opens Hawaii office
  • Expedia launches new technology to help blind travelers

 

  Article Published
1. FAQ on New Rules for European Hotel Rates: How Booking Sites Could Feel Pain Under new limited rate-parity rules going into effect in Europe, hotels such as Accor would be able to offer lower rates to the general public on TV and over the phone than they give to online travel agencies. Skift Take: Over the long term, the new limited rate-parity rules in Europe could help hotels generate more bookings from their own direct channels, including over the phone. From Skift Travel News Mon. July 13th
2. Online travel sites leery of new airline policies It turns out there are a number of interested parties following the Justice Department’s investigation into possible collusion among U.S. airlines. In particular, it is travel-related businesses that have expressed some concern. Mon. July 13th
3. TripAdvisor gets Italian fine overturned An Italian court has overturned a €500,000 (US$550,000) fine imposed last December on the online travel company TripAdvisor for allegedly publishing misleading information in its reviews. The fine was imposed by Italy’s Competition Authority (AGCM) at the request of a consumer organization and a national hotelier association, who argued that TripAdvisor did not do enough to ensure that the hotel and restaurant reviews posted by users on its website were reliable. From Network World Wed. July 15th
4. OTA consolidation bad news for hotels A new report by HVS reveals that OTAs such as Priceline and Expedia have become ever-more powerful as a result of strategic acquisitions of smaller, regional players with Priceline now controlling 62% of the European market, while Expedia holds around 70% of the US market. From Alltop Hotel Blogs Sun. July 12th
5. Virtual travel concierges are a thing, says HotelTonight, Native, and maybe Facebook The shift in travel spending from bricks-and-mortar travel agencies to online travel companies has largely been about automation — taking the human part out, for cost savings. Now a few startups, including HotelTonight , Native , and (apparently) Facebook , are trying to put the human element back in, through virtual concierge, or chat-based personal assistant, services. Tue. July 14th
6. Silently Debuting Homestays, Booking.com Jabs Airbnb – Tnooz Booking.com, the online travel agency giant owned by Priceline Group, has begun listing homestays. These accommodations don’t come from Booking’s traditional vacation rental inventory. From Hotel News Resource Mon. July 13th
7. And Then the Earth Shook: Google Enters Travel Booking Skift Take: For Google, the new program means it has the potential to become even more of a central hub for the travel industry as it can offer hotel-booking functionality to its massive base of users on desktop and mobile, in search and maps. Just wait until Google integrates flights and hotels. That’s coming too. — Dennis Schaal And so it begins as travelers can now book some hotels right on Google Search, Google Maps and Google+. From Skift Travel News Mon. July 13th
8. Activities and technology – a new relationship with a long-term future In an era of constant change and innovation in travel, with new business models and companies appearing every day, there is a great contradiction in the fact that the transfers and activities sector has remained disconnected from the travel distribution ecosystem. NB: This is an analysis by Paul Anthony , managing director for transfers and activities at Hotelbeds Group. From Tnooz News Feed Wed. July 15th
9. Expedia opening offices in Hawaii at Waikiki Shopping Plaza Expedia Inc., one of the world’s largest online travel companies, is opening offices in Hawaii at the Waikiki Shopping Plaza, according to public records. From Biz Journal – Accounting News Mon. July 13th
10. Expedia launches new technology to help blind travelers book trips Expedia Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPE) hopes to attract more blind travelers by offering technology such as text-to-speech screen readers and Braille display enhancements on the company’s travel sites. From NY Business Journal Travel Business News Fri. July 10th

 

July 10th, 2015

  • Forbes looks at Priceline & Expedia’s recent Latin American investments
  • OTA lobby report preceded airline antitrust inquiry
  • Google quietly adds instant hotel booking
  • Could new technology enable a “micro-stay” market for unused rooms?
  • Chinese commercial property group Dalian Wanda invests $500M in online travel agency 
  • Harvard Business Review on the risks of changing prices too often

 

  Article Published
1. Why Is LATAM On The OTA Leaders’ Radars? Shortly after Expedia’s investment in Latin American online travel agency, Decolar, Priceline recently followed in tow by investing in Brazil’s Hotel Urbano. The world’s biggest OTAs seem to be suddenly focusing their attention on Latin America. In this article, we first discuss the reasons why Priceline chose Hotel Urbano to expand its LATAM presence. Next, we discuss the reasons why LATAM provides attractive growth opportunities to the leading OTAs. From Forbes Market News Thu. July 9th
2. OTA lobby report preceded US airline antitrust inquiry, House of Cards-style Last month, before a US watchdog began an antitrust investigation against some airlines, the Travel Technology Association (TTA) , a lobbying group, published a much-cited report on airline market power. The report’s nature, and its timing, may remind some people in the travel industry of the fictional drama House of Cards (in its current Washington, DC, version). From Tnooz News Feed Thu. July 2nd
3. Google quietly adds instant booking for hotels, copying TripAdvisor For the first time, Google users can book a hotel room without ever leaving the search giant’s familiar desktop interface. The addition of assisted booking to Google.com/hotels , the search giant’s metasearch tool, hasn’t been officially announced. But the Google-faciliated bookings appear to be slowly rolling out across a select handful of listings in U.S. desktop search. From Tnooz News Feed Wed. July 8th
4. As tech and apps drive growth, time to argue the case for daytime hotel stays With more than 673,000 hotel rooms available in the UK alone, is the hotel industry capitalising on all of its assets – namely the large numbers of rooms sitting idle during the day? Can daytime rentals be the solution? From Tnooz News Feed Fri. July 3rd
5. Dalian Wanda invests $560m in online travel agency Dalian Wanda Group branched out into online tourism on Friday after investing 3.5 billion yuan ($560 million) in a travel agency. From China Daily Business News Fri. July 3rd
6. The Risks of Changing Your Prices Too Often Today’s technologies allow digital businesses (as well as a growing roster of traditional companies) to change prices frequently, even minute-by-minute in real time if they want to. It is not unusual for prices to change on sites like Amazon, Expedia, and Priceline several times a day. But managers are struggling to understand these tactics. How often should companies really change their prices? From Harvard Business Review Blog Network Mon. July 6th