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Our weekly OTA & Distribution Update for the week ending September 15, 2017 is below.  The week’s short Update features a heavy dose of OTA stories.

Swiss Authorities Examine Booking.com’s Pricing Practices [OTA]

("Priceline’s Booking Defends Commissions After Swiss Launch Probe Into ‘Abusive’ Pricing," Skift Travel News, September 14, 2017)
Switzerland’s pricing watchdog announced last week plans to open an investigation into the pricing practices of Booking.com after finding evidence that commissions charged some Swiss hoteliers could be abusive.

This week’s update features a number of traditional “distributor” stories and updates on short-term rentals.  We elected not to include a story involving the much-publicized leadership changes at Expedia (and Uber) as I’m sure everyone has already read more than enough about the surprising developments. 

Expedia Continues Its Diversification [OTA]
("Expedia becomes majority owner of hotel operating system Alice," Puget Sound Business Journal, August 30, 2017)

I attended and presented at this past week’s Hospitality Upgrade (Rich Siegel) CIO Summit in Denver.  Attendees at this annual event include the top IS and IT executives at the largest regional, national and global lodging companies.  I include this introductory information because of comments made by one of the first presenters at the Summit, comments which reverberated through nearly every presentation that followed during the 2-day Summit.  The presenter was, Bryson Koehler, CTO for IBM’s Watson – the widely recognized AI platform.  The comments related to the key differences between technology upstarts Airbnb, Uber, etc. versus traditional lodging industry members.  According to Bryson, Airbnb, Uber and other companies like them are software companies that just happen to offer solutions in the lodging and transportation industries (respectively).  In other words, each company started (and remains) a software company, not a lodging company or rental car company.  According to Bryson, this software orientation permeates everything the company does, which is a drastically different mindset than that of traditional lodging industry members.  So why talk about this here . . .   I include this because of what we are now seeing with the continued diversification efforts of both Expedia and The Priceline Group.  As each organization continues to expand it products and services (e.g. Expedia’s recently announced investment in Alice), both may soon be seen as software companies that just happen also to be lodging companies (rather than just distributors). 

Our weekly OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending August 25, 2017 is below.  This week’s Update once again shows that August is shaping up to be a relatively quiet month in the distribution world.

Yet Another Start Up Seeks to Make Short-Term Rentals More Like Hotels [SHORT-TERM RENTALS]
("Startup seeks to make vacation rentals more hotel-like," San Francisco Chronicle - Front Page, August 24, 2017)
Over the past few months, we have highlighted a number of new companies seeking to further commercialize short-term rentals by offering guests and hosts a variety of “hotel-like” standardized services.  Add Bay Area startup, RedAwning, to that growing list.  RedAwning serves as an intermediary between guests and commercial property managers and uses that position to provide a variety of services including marketing support, reservation processing and customer support. 

A recent case in federal district court in Florida foreshadows the beginning of an expanded reach of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a whole, the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Recently, a growing number of lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and private litigants threatening class action lawsuits serves as a strong caution to businesses operating websites to increase accessibility of those sites to disabled individuals.

This week’s Update for the week ending August, 18, 2017 is below.  Short-term rental regulation is featured prominently in this week’s Update. 

Hyatt and Expedia Come to Terms [OTA]
("Hyatt and Expedia Formally Sign New Deal," Skift Travel News, August 18, 2017)
Congratulations to both sides for resolving their differences and renewing their relationship. 

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending August 11, 2017 (where has summer gone) is below.  Compared to recent weeks, this past week was relatively quiet on the distribution front.

Priceline Revealed [OTA]
("The world’s largest online-travel company," The Economist - Business & Finance, July 27, 2017)
Two weeks ago, the Economist featured a highly-flattering overview of Priceline and its many online travel businesses.  For those of you who don’t read the Economist or who didn’t see the article, we include it in this week’s Update.  In short, the article describes Priceline as the often-overlooked online platform (overlooked perhaps because of its Connecticut, not Silicon Valley, address) that performs as well as, or even better than, many of its fellow technology titans (e.g. Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix and Expedia).   

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending August 4, 2017 is below.  An important update on the status of rate parity in the EU leads things off in this week’s Update.

Add Italy to the List of EU Member States Banning Rate Parity [OTA/PARITY]
("Online platforms suffer setback as Italy outlaws hotel 'price parity' clauses," Mlex, August 2, 2017)
For more than 2 years now, we have been watching draft “competition” legislation work its way through the Italian legislature.  Last week, the Italian Senate finally passed the legislation and by doing so joined France and Austria in their outright ban of rate parity provisions by OTAs and rejection of Booking.com’s narrow parity compromise.  Hopefully, the Italians are better at taking advantage of this important change versus their French and Austrian counterparts.    

Our weekly client OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending July 28, 2017 is below.  Two Expedia companies top this week’s Update.

Expedia Creates Newest Asian Travel Unicorn [OTA]
("Expedia invests $350M in Traveloka to create Southeast Asia’s newest unicorn," TechCrunch, July 28, 2017)
Expedia announced this past week a $350 million investment in Southeast Asia’s Traveloka.  The investment values the company at over $1 billion.  Founded in 2012, Traveloka provides online travel services to Southeast Asia’s six primary markets – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.  In addition to its investment, Expedia further strengthened its Southeast Asia presence through an agreement with Traveloka to make Expedia’s international inventory available to Traveloka users

Integration of Short-Term Rentals Continues [METASEARCH / SHORT-TERM RENTALS]
("Google Is Testing Vacation Rental Search in Its Hotel Price-Comparison Tool," Skift Travel News, July 20, 2017)
In what was an otherwise quiet week in the distribution industry, Google’s decision to include short-term rentals as part of its lodging search results captured most of the attention.  While short-term rentals have appeared sporadically on Google’s Hotel Ads in the past, Google’s recent introduction of a dedicated “vacation rental” filter for users searching accommodations in one of Europe’s many major cities is a huge step.  Initial searches indicate that Booking.com is the largest participant in the new accommodations category and notably, none of the large, dedicated short-term rental platforms have appeared in test searches.  With the addition of short-term rentals on its widely used metasearch platform, Google now joins other large platforms (e.g. Booking.com and Expedia) by offering short-term rentals alongside more traditional  accommodations. 

A number of updated and new stories in this week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending July 14, 2017. We hope you enjoy.

Expedia’s MeetingMarket Now Speaks English [OTA/GROUP]
("Expedia extends MeetingMarket, English-speaking markets first." Tnooz News Feed, July 12, 2017)

We’ve previously reported on Expedia’s small group booking platform (MeetingMarket) and its recent expansion in Germany.  Now, according to Expedia, the platform is ready for its introduction in English speaking markets – primarily as a white label solution.  Expedia’s focus on leveraging the MeetingMarket platform first as a white-label solution (as opposed to a standalone, branded small group marketplace) is just one more example of Expedia’s effort to expand its product and service offerings beyond its many well-known booking and metasearch platforms.  Expect an announcement soon on the first North American hotel company to embrace this new Expedia offering. 

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Greg Duff, Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs GSB’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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