Veronica Gould Stoddart and Roger Yu caught up with 6 top bosses at the recent PhoCusWright conference in Hollywood, Fla. The reporters posed a number of insightful questions to leaders at; Orbitz, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelocity, and Priceline.com.
We take up where we left off, analyzing answers to some key tech trend questions. (note: Be sure and follow the link to Jason Q. Freed at the end)
USA & Everywhere – Today & Tomorrow
The following question predecated a continuance after Scott Durchslag , president of Expedia Worldwide responded, the dialogue went as follows – USA Today aptly curious about whether or not “deals” are really deals at all:
USA TODAY: When we tried Expedia/Groupon Getaways, we found deals that weren’t quite 50% to 60% off as advertised. How can you ensure that your deals are really good?
Durchslag: That’s part of the learning curve. It’s not always a perfect process. We’re getting better and better. You’re going to lose consumer confidence if you don’t (offer) something that’s better. I think if you did that same check today, you would have a different outcome.
USA TODAY: Are any of the other online travel sites working on something similar?
Barney Hartford, CEO Orbitz Worldwide – We’ve launched Orbitz Insider Steals, which is a 72-hour window, member-only set of offerings that come out every week. We were concerned about the voucher-type model, where you (might not be able) to go on a particular weekend that you want to go. So we went with this (model) — these are the dates available today, and you need to make the booking right now.
Our view – Following the pattern of our previous reports, looking at Hartford’s answer here, Orbitz’s top decisions maker finally just rips off a straight answer. Clearly, Orbitz is finely tuned to top trends and slicing revenues/prices. At least Hartford’s renewed focus on the questions being put, would indicate this.
Stephen Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor – Our Sneak Away flash sale product is only talking about properties that the millions of consumers out there have said, “Hey, this is a great place.” What we all like about the concept is that it’s inspiring more travel.
Our View – All we can say here is, the current headline on “Sneak Away” isn’t awe inspiring or credible.
NewYorkfoodee says; “got invite to sneak away or something liek it 50% off hotels but I am not able to join it says time limit help.” NewYorkfoodee has to be one of the most active people on TripAdvisor, the Augie Doggie member might even be the poster child for TA. I won’t say more there.
However, if anyone suggests this writer is trying to make any online entity look bad, I will just say this. The leading online travel companies are pretty defenseless when it comes to food for criticism. TripAdvisor is a content catastrophe covered over (or perhaps caused by) massive content structural problems – scale, let’s call it.
Carl Sparks , CEO of Travelocity Global – I think (daily deals) may end up being a little bit more of a niche than the mainstream for most of our businesses. It is going to be one or two or three percent of the business. So we focus more on having everyday great deals. In (Travelocity’s) Top Secret Hotels, (hotels are) about 50% (off).
Our View –
Jeffery Boyd , CEO of Priceline.com – I probably have a different view on how compelling the deals are. Some of them look like everyday promotional pricing that the hotels provide to a lot of other distribution channels. And that’s not fulfilling the promise they’re trying to make to the customer. So I think Groupon has to be very careful. If we invest in flash sales, we would do that to build our own brands. We wouldn’t do that to help Groupon.
OTA CEOs Now & Next
Slicing and dicing the questions and answers decision makers give, this is about the only way any of us can piece the puzzle of business and relationships together. Don’t take our word for anything, this is my dogma. All we try to do is raised questions, this is what comes of these editorials. The problem for these online travel agencies, any business online, is going to be transparency and value, this is no secret. If many are playing a delaying game, a four corners defensive posture on guest-service provider interaction, the end game is obvious. Stalling won’t help unless solutions arise.
Looking at our next post, I think it is important for the interested reader to look at what is really going on here. Jason Q. Freed at HotelNewsNow does a good job of lining up the future of OTA debate with this post. At least he provides a very agnostic view on the situation. Speaking of “generation gaps” and even identifying the “supplier” in the equation, just these terms from Freed engender a “WTF” response for me.
I leave you with a quote from Tom Magnuson, CEO of Magnuson Hotels and Global Hotel Exchange. Tom is a client of our PR firm, and a friend. I asked him to respond on the previous USA Today question about “premium content” for travel sites. His response to that sheds light on upcoming discussion.
“What most OTAs and mass media do not realise is that people are smarter than they think. Consumers today do not have to be spoon fed ‘rich information” disguised as layers of bait and switch consumer confusion. People know what they want, when they want it and about how much they want to spend. Transparency, simplicity, low price and speed of transaction are the values GHX will provide beginning in January 2012.” TM of GHX
For me, this sounds like Priceline dogma, how about you? The bottom line for me is, these people have made a simple market structure entirely too complicated. We are talking hotel beds here, not global warming. Along these lines, next we speak with experts of our own, interjecting views from the aforementioned CEOs (if we can get them). In the meantime, read Freed’s view.
Desk images courtesy of TessarTheTegu and Fotolia