While some argue that online travel’s better days are behind it, Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern said there are plenty of opportunities and room for growth for the entire sector.
Kern responded to a question at Skift Global Forum 2022 in Manhattan Wednesday from Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali on whether exponential growth for online travel is finished.
Kern said while online adoption is fairly mature in North America and the West, there are plenty of other places in the world where the sector can take advantage of the transition from offline to online booking.
The chance to make “easy money,” Kern acknowledged, has been diminished, but as online products and service improve, there will be a generational shift to online booking. He said plenty of room is left for innovation.
Kern noted that the major online travel agencies still only control around 20 percent of a “multi-trillion dollar” travel market. “Those are all opportunities” to build partnerships with the thousands of offline travel agents, he said.
“I think there is plenty of growth for all of us,” Kern said.
Ali asked Kern if mergers and acquisitions will be part of the playbook. Expedia Group sold its corporate travel business, Egencia, to American Express Global Business Travel in 2021.
Kern said acquisitions are not a “first and foremost” priority for Expedia Group now, but once the company completes the restructuring it has been working on for the last couple of years, then it will be in a position to make deals if there is something interesting to acquire.
In addition to launching a new Expedia Group-wide loyalty program, most likely next year, the company is placing a lot of emphasis on further developing its business to business arm to provide supply and technology to business partners, including banks, loyalty programs and even influencers. The AARP and Hopper are among Expedia’s partners.
Expedia Group is creating “micro services” that partners can use, including fraud detection technology, service capabilities, and machine learning tech, Kern said.
The company’s business to business initiative is a “very big business for us,” Kern said, adding that it was a “nearly $20 billion throughput business” for Expedia Group in pre-pandemic 2019.
It has “lots of pieces,” Kern said, and Expedia Group is currently transforming what was initially intended as enterprise technology into products and services that are suitable for smaller entrepreneurs.
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