Last week, Danny King over at Travel Weekly hit the nail on the head with his assessment of Expedia’s so called “verified” review system. Expedia Verified Reviews attempts to qualify hotel reviews using “use” of Expedia as a criteria. Having pushed TripAdvisor from the OTA nest on its own, Expedia seems intent on milking the last drop from the user review teat. Expedia’s future as the leader in online travel is at stake.
According to King’s report, Expedia has already launched this new feature across several markets, with the intent to integrate the US and what remains of Western Europe later on this year. The big questions still remain though. Do people care about user reviews, and can travelers really trust Expedia’s new variant? Already, Priceline.com has supplanted Expedia for the first time in a very long time as the #1 US revenue maker among OTAs. With TripAdvisor on its own, Expedia has their work cut out. The graph from Hitwise at left shows a great many travel sites running neck and neck.
As suggested by experts in the Travel Weekly report, the launch of this new “verifiable” review system, on the heels of TripAdvisor’s credibility problems and subsequent separation, confirms in a way speculation Expedia could not salvage TA. Meanwhile, Expedia has bigger problems if what Dana Blankenhorn over at Seeking Alpha says comes to pass. Being squeezed on all sides is something industry leaders have to look forward to, but the question remains for any “how to stay on top.”
Clearly, Expedia has made some critical errors that walking around the proverbial “bush” will not solve. If momentum has any say-so in business, Expedia already lost it. The rough tool of Alexa applied to Expedia and Priceline.com search above, at least shows a bit of this, as does the Compete metric below. It should also be noted, Hitwise shows Expedia ahead of Priceline where visits are concerned as recently as a few days ago. Metrics will always vary, of course. So the reader knows, Goldman Sachs rated Expedia “neutral” as of close on Friday, another sign that the world’s biggest OTA is showing signs of at least uncertainty.
Finally, whether or not Priceline.com is set to truly supplant Expedia as the front runner OTA remains to be seen. However, many market experts say Priceline is exhibiting “bearish” behavior. It could be too, that the current trend is not so much Priceline strength as Expedia weakness. Who can say whether travelers switch out of disgust, value attentiveness, or just being fickle? Expedia’s future, in some ways, seems to depend on one flimsy vehicle of trust.