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 and Booking Holdings 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.
Robert Cole, founder and CEO of Rock Cheetah, a hotel marketing and travel technology consulting firm, said: “The hospitality industry has a patented four-step method to deal with disruption. 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.”
Even so, there are signs the industry is starting to pull its head out of the sand. At last year’s Phocuswright conference, a panel on the future of corporate travel became a discussion about the inevitability of disruption by Google and Amazon, according to Travel Weekly.
Nick Price, CEO of NetSys Technology, a hospitality technology consultancy, said, “Amazon in a significant way was determined to be the more significant threat long term, even though it’s not present in hospitality today and Google is. Amazon is such an efficient and effective digital retailer that it is, by its nature, a primary potential competitor.”
Of course, neither Google nor Amazon hold any flight or hotel inventory. But what they do hold is information – oodles and oodles of it.
Cole said, “Google is certainly predominantly an advertising-driven platform but it’s got billions of users and has all this behavioral data where it can really do some interesting things. And Amazon has collected a lot of data and understands the relationships between what people like and their behaviors.”
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