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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.” 

With my bracket totally blown by Villanova’s loss this afternoon, there is no time like the present to prepare this week’s OTA & Travel Distribution Update.  This week’s Update features stories for everyone.

  • Discounted OTA Loyalty Program Rates Coming Soon? [OTA / Loyalty]  Skift shared some interesting comments last week from Priceline Group’s Executive Chairman, Jeffrey Boyd.  According to Boyd (speaking at a Merrill Lynch consumer and retail technology conference in New York), Priceline Group has the “muscle and technology” to offer discounted loyalty program rates to its customers in the same way hoteliers are doing so today.  While Priceline and its family of distribution platforms could possibly take advantage of the limited “closed group” discounting opportunities in the UK (and possibly the EU), it isn’t clear how Priceline’s muscle or technology might allow it to avoid contractual limitations or prohibitions on discounting. 

Priceline’s Boyd Says Company Has the ‘Muscle’ to Offer Private Rates Like Hotels Do
Skift Travel news, Mar 16, 2017
Priceline Group executives say their relationships with the major hotel chains are good and the impact of their direct-booking campaigns isn't acute. Then why is Jeffery Boyd, the Group's executive chairman, talking about taking remedial actions? -Dennis Schaal

This week’s GSB OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the weekend ending March 10, 2017 is below.  Expedia, Airbnb and Facebook are featured in this week’s update.

  • The Battle of Reports Continues [Short-Term Rentals].  By now, most everyone is likely aware of the AHLA funded study recently conducted by CBRE’s hotel division of Airbnb and its whole-unit / multi-unit hosts.  The resulting report was released last week and appears on its face to rebut many of the claims made by Airbnb in previously released reports and presentations.  Highlights include...

Our weekly client OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the first week of March 2017 is below.

  • La Quinta Expands Loyalty Program [OTA].  La Quinta is the latest chain to announce significant revisions to its loyalty program (La Quinta Returns).  Similar to the recently announced changes by Hilton to its Hilton Honors, La Quinta’s changes, among other things, allow members to use points toward the purchase of everyday items, including groceries, restaurant meals and other online purchases.   Other changes include Instant Free Nights (which allow members to redeem free nights at check in), allowing members to combine cash and points for free nights and Every Night Counts (which allows members to earn credit toward an elite level even if the rate does not qualify for points.

La Quinta Launches Enhanced Loyalty Program Hotel Business.com News, Mar 2, 2017
IRVING, TX—La Quinta Holdings Inc. has a new, integrated marketing campaign to support the launch of enhancements to its award-winning loyalty program, La Quinta Returns, including the debut of its “Winning @ Business” television and digital campaign.

The digital world is a vast, Amazonian river of intellectual property (IP) – software, brands, photos, video clips, music, guest information, guest reviews – flowing quickly in every direction. Almost any significant issue arising in this space highlights the juxtaposition between an IP owner’s desire – in some cases legal obligation – to control and protect its content (i.e. intellectual property) with the desire to have content exposed to more and different consumers and potential consumers, across ever proliferating channels.

In HOTEL Yearbook Special Edition – Digital Marketing 2017, I will provide valuable legal insights and advice pertaining to the hotel world.

The full article is available for download on HOTEL Yearbook 2017’s website (login or registration is required.)

This week’s client OTA & Travel Distribution Update for the week ending February 24, 2017 is below.  Several interesting OTA stories this week, including an update on another Seattle-based travel distribution company, Utrip.

  • Short-Term Rental Corporate OTA Launched [OTA / SHORT-TERM RENTAL].  Not that we needed further evidence of the short-term rental’s growth and maturity in the overall lodging industry, but BridgeStreet Global Hospitality announced last week its launch of an online platform dedicated to connecting corporate travelers with serviced (and “guaranteed”) short-term rental properties.  In my quick review of the BridgeStreet.com website this morning, I noted featured listings in Washington, London, New York, Chicago, Paris and Cleveland.  A dedicated group booking platform for short-term rentals cannot be too far away.

BridgeStreet unveils OTA for business travel communityTnooz News Feed, Feb. 23, 2017
BridgeStreet Global Hospitality says its development of an online travel agency for corporate travellers aims to bridge the gap between extended stay.

This week’s client OTA & Distribution Update for the week ending February 10, 2017 is below.  A few more stories in this week’s update in comparison to the last few weeks of update.  Plus, given the increasing importance of loyalty programs and the critical role they now play in many hoteliers’ distribution strategies (e.g. direct book), we plan to start tracking and featuring important loyalty program stories – this week’s update features the first loyalty program story of many to come. 

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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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