Online travel trends in USA

It’s been a decade since the travel industry has turned around from the global recession. The past 10 years marks the story of remarkable resilience shown by the hoteliers. From accommodation sharing to rate comparison to social selling to travel demand surge – this has been a period of challenges, disruptions and growth.

Fueled by digital innovation, the shift to online travel booking has emerged as a global trend. In 2009, Expedia and Booking – two of world’s biggest OTAs processed around $15 billion in gross bookings. In 2018, they reported gross global bookings of $99 billion and $92 billion, respectively. From $15 billion to $191 billion – this astonishing 1200% increase reflects the change in traveler’s booking behavior and preference.

According to a survey by Wex on US travelers’ booking behavior and preferences ranging in age from 18 to 70, typically 67% of respondents book their travel online with 73% of Gen Z and 76% of Millennial travelers doing so. The online travel market in US, although near saturation, has been outpacing the overall market and now amounts to US$103 billion. While OTAs are expected to control 41% market share in 2020, Expedia and Booking Holdings continue to dominate in the U.S., with the two collectively representing 92% of the OTA market. In this post we take a deep dive into OTAs in the region who are playing vital role in shaping the digital travel.

Expedia

In 2018, 350 million room-nights were booked through Expedia, making hotel reservations its biggest source of revenue. Following the merchant revenue model, the company buys up a large number of hotel rooms at a lower rate and receives booking payments from the customer. Through a network of branded travel booking sites, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, Wotif, Egencia, Vrbo along with the metasearch platform Trivago, the group has been able to drive a loyal user base. The Expedia platform had over 1 million properties (including 370,000 of HomeAway vacation rentals) with its site receiving 675 million monthly site visits and its mobile app being one of the most popular one across platforms.

For listed hotels, the company provides an easy-to-use console Expedia Group Partner Central to manage their properties, join promotions and packages to attract travelers, and maximise revenues.

Egencia is the business travel management service offering accommodation, flights, activities, and more to businesses who wish to leverage their services to find the best deals for travelers.

Booking.com

Everyday over 1.5 million room-nights are booked on Booking Holdings platform making it the largest online travel agency in the world, and has a portfolio of popular OTAs, including Booking.com, Priceline, Agoda and Kayak.  Booking.com, its flagship brand largely works on the agency model acting as agents on behalf of accommodation providers. Hotels pay the OTAs once the booking has been paid in full by the guests. Its loyalty reward system called Genius provides members with discounts and rewards which increase as the member books more through the site. Booking.com has been steadily making inroads in the US market which has been historically dominated by Expedia.

Listing on Booking.com is a rather simple process. Accommodation providers need to visit the registration page and complete the instructions. It’s important to select the property type to ensure right category listing. The commission-based service even offers 24/7 multilingual assistance and markets your property on various search engines. Booking.com provides its client properties a Visibility Dashboard with the relevant data to track and improve your visibility in the search results. Hotels can also take advantage of its Genius and Preferred Partner Programme for better visibility.

Airbnb

Over the last couple of years, Airbnb has emerged as a preferred channel for independent and boutique hotels. In fact, properties listed as boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other hospitality venues like hostels and resorts have grown by 152 percent in the last one year. The platform has also emerged as a preferred option for last-minute bookers, which is expected to get further boost following its acquisition of HotelTonight and cross-promotion across these channels. Since last year, Airbnb has been highlighting hotels more prominently on its website and introduced a loyalty program. Earlier this year, the company has eliminated guest fee on new hotel listings making it more competitive with traditional OTAs. To list their properties on Airbnb, hotels need to match guidelines set by the channel like:

  • Vibrant common gathering spaces / events
  • Guest rooms with personal touches that are individually unique and/or local in design
  • High-quality photos on the listing page that showcase the design of the property and what guests can expect
  • Accessibility features that are helpful to guests with limited mobility

Hotels.com

A part of Expedia group, Hotels.com is a strong brand available across 85 local websites in 35 languages. The channel receives over 60 million unique visitors per month.  It’s loyalty program Hotels.com® Rewards has over 15 million members. With a fully responsive mobile site and mobile app with over 50 million downloads to date, customers can book on the go with access to 20,000 last minute deals. To list a property, hoteliers need to apply through Expedia Partner Central (EPC). As part of the Expedia group, the listing gets featured across all Expedia sites including Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, and Travelocity.

 

 

 

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