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Our weekly OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending May 21, 2017 is below.  Nothing earth shattering this week...

  • Accor Launches Dynamic Packaging [DIRECT BOOKING].  Joining the ranks of Marriott and other large hotel brands, Accor rolled out last week its previously announced dynamic packaging that allows users of Accor’s website the opportunity to book both hotels and flights.  Through its partnership with MisterFly, Accor is now able to offer packages consisting of rooms at over 200 Accor properties and flights with a variety of network and low-cost carriers.  Dynamic packaging is just one more example of Accor’s ongoing efforts to provide its customers one-stop shopping for their entire travel experience.   Unique to Accor’s package offering, Accor loyalty program members can earn loyalty program points based on the value of the entire package – both hotel and air. 

AccorHotels’ New Flight and Hotel Packages Target Loyalty Members First
Skift Travel News, May 15, 2017
In its attempt to own more of the traveler experience from start to finish, AccorHotels is leveraging the power of its loyalty program — something its peers, no doubt, will also want to do going forward. -Deanna Ting 

This week’s GSB weekly client OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending May 12, 2017 is below. 

  • Rhetoric Over AHLA’s Planned Lobbying Efforts Ramps Up [OTA].  Not surprisingly, Priceline Group CEO Glenn Fogel has a slightly different perspective on the OTA’s influence and control over the online travel agency industry.  Responding to recent reports (see last week’s Update) outlining AHLA’s plans to lobby Trump administration officials over Expedia’s and Priceline Group’s dominance of the online travel agency industry, Glenn objected to AHLA’s characterization of Expedia’s and Priceline Group’s control as a monopolistic.   According to Glenn, such statements, when considering Priceline Group’s share of the global travel industry (as opposed to AHLA’s use of the U.S. online travel industry – a much smaller denominator) constitute “misstatements” and untrue “allegations.”  I suspect Glenn’s comments are not the last that we will see coming out of the OTAs regarding AHLA’s planned campaign. 

Priceline Group CEO Faults Hotel Association for False Allegations
Skift Travel News, May 11, 2017 

There is ample competition among hotels, online travel agencies, and airlines in the U.S. travel marketplace as all of these sectors have seen a spate of consolidation. It may make sense business-wise for these companies, but none of it is particularly good for consumers or competition.


Our OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending Friday, May 5, 2017 is below. 

  • Industry To Again Focus Attention on Distribution Duopoly [OTA].  In an article last week, Bloomberg shared details from an AHLA board meeting where the Association discussed proposed plans for a wide scale lobbying effort of the FTC and incoming Trump Administration officials regarding the practices of on-line behemoths Expedia and Priceline.  A consumer marketing campaign based on the popular Monopoly board game was also discussed.  The AHLA’s proposed plans also call for the Association and its members to better promote themselves as innovative and technologically savvy – words one often doesn’t use when describing the lodging industry.  It will be interesting to watch whether these previously voiced concerns (remember the industry’s response to Expedia’s Orbitz acquisition, anyone?) have a larger effect on Trump administration versus the prior administration. 

Hotels Plan Lobbying Push Over Priceline-Expedia ‘Monopoly’
Bloomberg Markets, May 5, 2017
The U.S. hotel industry plans to step up a lobbying and public relations attack on Expedia Inc. and Priceline Group Inc., hoping to convince consumers and members of the Trump administration that the travel-booking giants are monopolistic. The American Hotel & Lodging Association, an industry group whose membership includes Marriott International Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., devised plans for a campaign saying the online travel companies use unfair practices in their search businesses, according to board meeting documents seen by Bloomberg. The trade group intends to lobby Federal Trade Commission officials on the issue and try to ensure that new members picked by President Donald Trump are friendly to hotels, according to the documents prepared for a January meeting of the group’s board.

This week’s OTA & Distribution Update for the week ending April 28, 2017 is below.  Loyalty program updates feature prominently in this week’s Update as well as story on some important changes at Airbnb to lure corporate travelers. Enjoy.

  • TripAdvisor Continues to Evolve [METASEARCH / OTA].  Several important updates from TripAdvisor this week . . .   First, TripAdvisor announced that Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) (one of the last major brands to feature its properties on TripAdvisor’s Instant Book) finally joined the booking platform.  Second, TripAdvisor may be returning to its metasearch roots – at least for some users.  According to TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor may no longer give preference to its own Instant Book listings over metasearch links to its partners’ sites.  Priority is now given based on a number of factors including rate, a user’s booking history and other user attributes.  Maybe it is again time to ask whether TripAdvisor a metasearch site or a booking engine – the answer may now depend on who’s asking.

TripAdvisor Instant Booking Gets Very Personal
Skift Travel News, April 27, 2017
TripAdvisor is getting more sophisticated about prodding customers to book hotels on TripAdvisor or to more effectively refer them to partner sites. In an apparently modified strategy, TripAdvisor is finding religion in being agnostic about where its users book hotels.

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending April 21, 2017 is below.  This week’s update contains a variety of stories, including a copy of the now much-publicized New York Times article detailing AH&LA’s campaign against Airbnb and Airbnb’s subsequent response.

Both the courts and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seem to keep changing the definitions of joint employment. It is no wonder this has left employers scratching their head about the situation. The cause for this itch is the analysis differs depending on the law at issue. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), various state employment laws defining “employees,” common law (guided by the National Labor Relations Act), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and workers’ compensation laws all have joint employer doctrines and associated tests that are slightly different from the others.

To demonstrate these differences, we will look at two of the most recent cases that modify the joint employer analysis under both the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA). Both these cases define a test – but it is not the same test. Unfortunately, the lesson is that an employer or putative employer will not know whether a person is an employee for the purposes of a particular law without determining first what test should be applied for that law.

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending April 14, 2017 is below.  Additional details regarding last week’s long-awaited report on online travel by the European Commission are featured in this week’s Update.

  • $1 Billion in R&D Spells Trouble for Hoteliers [OTA].  Those of you who have been receiving our updates for some time now likely recall the number of occasions where I have lamented the future of hoteliers’ homegrown internal distribution efforts.  I belief the last of these many laments followed Amazon’s announcement that its smart voice-controlled user interface (aka Echo) would soon allow users to confirm travel bookings on Expedia and even search for, and book, rental cars on Expedia.  Well . . .  Our first story highlights again the challenges that hoteliers will continue to face in the years ahead as Expedia continues to dedicate considerable resources (a billion of them) to ongoing research and development.  This week’s story features Expedia’s efforts in the virtual reality space as well as another shout out to the company’s ongoing efforts with Amazon’s Echo.  My point here remains the same as before.  As these distribution platforms continue to evolve (and dedicate billions to improving the consumer’s experience), they will become exceedingly difficult to compete with or ignore.  The historically adverse relationships between hoteliers and distributors must also evolve such that hoteliers find ways to work with distributors in order to remain current and relevant.  It may not take too long before people think first of “Alexa” when starting their travel planning process as opposed to Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott.  I’m stepping off my soap box now...

Expedia will soon let you try before you fly with VR hotel rooms
Mashable, April 11, 2017
Warning: Mini fridge privileges not included.

Below please find this week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending April 7, 2017.  The recently released European Commission’s report on the hotel industry headlines this week’s Update. 

  • European Commission Issues Much Anticipated Report on Online Booking Industry [OTA/ANTI-TRUST].  Although we have yet to dig into the details of the Commission’s report, here is what we know:
    • The European Commission and 10 national competition authorities took part in the online hotel booking review, which was intended to examine the effectiveness of the variety of anti-trust enforcement measures adopted over the past few years to limit OTAs’ parity requirements (e.g. narrow parity and absolute parity prohibition).

Some interesting stories in this week’s GSB OTA & Travel Distribution Update (for the week ending March 31, 2017):

  • Restaurant Bookings Today, Hotel Reservations Tomorrow [SOCIAL MEDIA].  This week’s Chefs & Tech newsletter from Skift featured a story about Instagram’s recently announced plans to allow users to book an appointment (or reservation) directly from a business’s Instagram profile.  This new feature will be available over the next few months.  While Skift focused its piece on the implications for the restaurant industry (look out OpenTable and Yelp), I cannot imagine it will be too long before Instagram explores providing similar functionality to its hotel advertisers.  According to the report, approximately 8 million businesses (no breakdown as to the number of restaurant or hotels) currently maintain profiles on Instagram.  A new distribution / booking channel is born.

Chefs+Tech: Restaurant Reservations on Instagram Coming Soon
Skift Travel News, Mar 31, 2017
With the addition of reservations for advertisers, Instagram will reach customers as they're most engaged, offering convenient booking and instant ROI for businesses. -Kristen Hawley

This week’s Update for the week of March 26, 2017 is below:

Airbnb cracks down on San Francisco hosts, booting out hundreds
Revitalization Partners, Mar 24, 2017
Home-sharing company Airbnb says it has evicted 923 listings in San Francisco for violating its “One Host, One Home” policy. In a statement this week, Airbnb disclosed the figures of listings it had booted because they “appeared to be shared by hosts with multiple entire unit listings that could impact long-term housing availability.” 

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Greg Duff, Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs the firm's Hospitality, Travel and Tourism group. Greg's practice is largely directed at operational matters, including management contracts, franchise agreements, sales and marketing, distribution and technology.

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