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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. 

CMA Seeks to Educate UK Hoteliers [PARITY]
("Competition watchdog urges hotels to take advantage of demise of price parity," The Caterer - Latest Hospitality News, July 5, 2017)

Euro on a balance scaleIf you recall, one of the key takeaways from the European Commission’s recently released study on the effectiveness of the narrow parity compromise reached by EU competition authorities with Booking.com (and subsequently Expedia) was the fact that EU hoteliers were largely unaware of the compromise or its effects.  The UK’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) released last week a bulletin intending to change that.  The CMA issued a single-page overview of the Booking.com compromise advising UK hoteliers of their ability to offer different rates and availability to competing OTAs.  For anyone still unfamiliar with the Booking.com compromise, the overview provides a clear and concise summary of the UK’s (and the majority of EU member states’) current approach to parity.

Our weekly OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending June 30, 2017 is below.  A mix of stories in this week’s update...

Airbnb Continues Its March Toward Mainstream Lodging (SHORT-TERM RENTALS)
("Airbnb signs partnership with Flight Centre’s corporate travel brands," Tnooz News Feed, June 29, 2017)
Abnb announced last week its agreement with Flight Centre Travel Group to feature portions of Airbnb’s inventory with Flight Centre’s corporate travel brands FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveler.  Although this newly announced partnership applies only in Australia and New Zealand, it is yet another example of Airbnb’s ongoing efforts to grow its presence in the mainstream (and lucrative) business travel market.  According to Airbnb’s announcement of the new partnership, at least 10% of Airbnb’s bookings now come from business travelers. 

Oregon is poised to become the first state in the country to require larger food service, retail and hospitality employers to provide their hourly workers predictable schedules – or to pay the price. This is the second of two major changes to Oregon employment law. An earlier alert discussed the Equal Pay Act.

Starting July 1, 2018, qualifying employers must post a written work schedule for all employees one week ahead. The requirement expands to two weeks in 2020. Employees may decline any work shifts not included in the advance schedule, and employees may ask (only in writing) for additional shifts during the notice window. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) will start enforcing the law January 1, 2019.

The legislature passed Senate Bill 828, known by its champions as the Fair Work Week Act, and the bill is heading to the desk of Oregon Governor Kate Brown for her expected signature. To read more about the details of the Act, read our recent Client Update.

Even as Oregon’s minimum wage jumps by $1.50 in the Portland metro area (fifty cents elsewhere in Oregon), the 2017 Legislature has passed two more worker-friendly bills dealing with equal pay and predictable work schedules. (More on the scheduling law in the next alert.)

This week’s GSB OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending June 23, 2017 is below.  A variety of stories this week.

Time to Take French Legislative Prohibitions Seriously [OTA/PARITY]
("Expedia fined in France over hotel price parity clauses", Mlex, June 23, 2017)
Expedia learned first-hand this past week that France’s Loi Macron legislation is indeed the “law of the land” – at least for now.  Last week, a French Court of Appeals ruled that Expedia’s rate parity provisions violated the legislation’s ban on rate parity and fined Expedia one million euros.  Recall that France was one of three EU countries whose competition authorities agreed in 2015 to Booking.com’s proposed “narrow” (direct channel only) approach to rate parity, but then soon thereafter passed legislation banning rate parity altogether.  Many have questioned the effect of the French legislation given the inconsistent prior administrative resolution.  For now, we have a sense as to how French courts might view rate parity.

Umbrella - SeattleInitiative 124 (aka I-124), the ballot measure approved by voters in November 2016 that establishes several new purported "safety and health" standards for hotel employees in the city of Seattle, opens the door for unprecedented exposures for Seattle's hotel operators. Since its enactment last December, Initiative 124 has given rise to several questions about how, if at all, insurance policies might respond to allegations under the new law.

Our weekly client OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending June 16, 2017 is below. Several interesting stories this week...

Price-Fixing Technology the Subject of EU Regulators [PARITY]

("Enforcers Must Watch for New Algorithmic Price Fixing Online, EU Says," Mlex Market Insight, June 15, 2017)
As a follow up to a story we featured back in March of this year, we again this week highlight the work of the European Commission in the area of technological-based price fixing.  Last week, both the European Commission and the EU’s Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued reports looking at the growing use of pricing algorithms and their associated anti-trust (price-fixing) challenges.  Although the reports focus heavily on traditional online retailers, online travel agents didn’t escape the regulators’ attention.

This week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending June 9, 2017 is below. This week’s Update features a variety of stories.

Online travel bookingAirline Surcharge Challenged [DIRECT BOOKING]

("IAG Flight-Booking Surcharge Faces Antitrust Complaints," MLex Market Insight, June 6, 2017)
A week or two ago British Airways announced plans to join Lufthansa in its practice of charging travelers who book through an intermediary (rather than direct with the airline) a booking surcharge ($10.00). Last week, the Business Travel Coalition (a US-based managed-travel lobbying group) filed anti-trust complaints with regulators in Spain, the UK and the EU, arguing that British Airways' parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG) was abusing its superior market position by levying the charge. More information to come on this developing story in the weeks ahead.

This week’s client OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending June 2, 2017 is below.  A short update this week...

  • Expedia Defends (Again) Billboard Effect [OTA].  In the latest salvo regarding the existence of the so-called “billboard effect,” Expedia’s Melissa Maher shared last week the results of what Melissa claims is the latest in a string of studies to show that the billboard effect is real.   This latest report authored by Cornell’s, Chris Anderson, contradicts a report sponsored, in part, by AHLA and released in 2015, which claimed that the billboard effect was largely dead.  While this latest report acknowledges that the effect may be less significant, the report relies heavily on the underlying study’s central finding that 65% of travelers who book directly with a major hotel brand visited one or more OTA sites prior to booking.  Further, over 30% of direct bookers began their hotel search with an OTA.  A complete copy of the study is available in the linked article below.

Latest Thoughts on the Billboard Effect
Tnooz, June 1, 2017
Consumer engagement trends continue to evolve, in turn changing how travelers interact with online resources during the path to purchase. For hoteliers, this has made it difficult to determine which sales and marketing efforts lead to demand. 

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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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