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    Greg Duff founded and chairs the firm’s national Hospitality, Travel and Tourism group. Greg’s practice is directed at the variety of operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality and travel industry members, including ...

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. 

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. 

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.

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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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