Is the travel industry heading for a new world order?
There remains little doubt among travel experts that tech goliaths Google and Amazon will dominate the online travel arena, threatening to bust up the duopoly of Expedia Group (which owns Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago and Hotwire) and Booking Holdings (which owns Priceline, Kayak and Booking.com) that has reigned for years.
Google is already making an impact with its soup-to-nuts suite of planning and booking tools. Last year, Google came in second to Expedia for one-stop shops travelers consider, according to the Portrait of American Travelers study by travel and hospitality marketing firm MMGY Global. The same study showed preference for Expedia had dipped to 64% in 2018 from 67% in 2017.
So far, Amazon has only dipped its pinky toe into the travel waters but there’s some evidence – and intense speculation – that something bigger is coming.
Both internet giants bring the kind of vast resources and big-data reservoirs that allow them to dramatically change how we book trips.
Yet with the landscape already shifting under its feet, a travel industry not known for nimbleness is largely unprepared for the freight train coming its way, say experts.
“Oh wait, I hear something. The tracks are shaking — but there’s plenty of room for it to stop,” deadpans Robert Cole, founder and CEO of Rock Cheetah, a hotel marketing and travel technology consulting firm.
“The hospitality industry has a patented four-step method to deal with disruption,” says Cole. “Step one is to ignore it. Step two is that when it’s pointed out to them, they continue to ignore it. Step three is they panic, and step four is they complain about it.”
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