The ever-expanding tentacles of Expedia …. do you know everything it owns?

A reader forwarded me an email from HotelClub, a small but fairly well known booking website, last week.

The business was originally part of Orbitz, which was recently acquired by Expedia. From 16th February, it is effectively being closed down by merging it into hotels.com.  Anyone with unused HotelClub Member Rewards will be able to exchange them for a cash credit at hotels.com.

The ever-increasing reach of Expedia is worth noting.  You may think you are booking with an independent travel group but there is a good chance that Expedia is involved somewhere!

Expedia Plus

The current list of key Expedia brands is:

  • hotels.com
  • Orbitz
  • Travelocity
  • Egencia
  • Hotwire
  • Trivago
  • venere.com
  • carrentals.com
  • Classic Vacations
  • Wotif
  • HomeAway

In reality, the list is even longer because it excludes companies which are indirectly owned by one of the companies above.

cheaptickets.com, for example, is part of Orbitz.  ratestogo.com was part of HotelClub which was itself part of Orbitz.

TripAdvisor, however, is no longer part of Expedia having been floated separately in 2011.  TripAdvisor also has an ever growing list of subsidiaries including CruiseCritic, AirFareWatchdog, BookingBuddy, SeatGuru, SmarterTravel etc.

The key thing to note from this, when shopping around for a hotel or flight, is not to focus only on sites from the list above.  If you do, you are likely to be getting the same price from different parts of the same company.

Expedia does not have it all its own way, of course.  The big hotel companies have been fighting back using every trick in the book:

having exclusive discount rates on their own websites

restricting status benefits to anyone who books via a wholesaler

not allowing the accrual of points on room spend

With a stronger economy, the hotel groups have also been cutting tougher deals.  Commissions are down and access to room stock at peak periods, including ‘last room availability’, has been restricted.

Expedia remains the elephant in the room however.  As this article explains:

Expedia’s marketing spend is larger than Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) combined at over $3 billion.

Competing with that isn’t easy.

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Comments

  1. When I do business with an end customer rather than an intermediary I can offer preferential terms. Yet when hotels do business with their end customers, through their own websites or direct booking, too often I find their prices out of sync and their “best price guarantee” conditions almost impossible to utilise.

    If hotels were truly offering best prices, then only the foolish and uneducated would book through consolidators or intermediary websites. The simple fact is that they do not.

  2. The best value from expedia and the like is to exploit BRG’s . I have had mixed success so far but over the next 2 weeks I’ve snared 4 hotel rooms at a 25% discount to the rate quoted by ClubCarlsson brands by using their BRG. Plus doing it this way you get loyalty points too!

  3. Peaceful Waters says:

    I’ve recently discovered Hotels.com quoting me in Sterling but charging me in local currency, triggering credit card currency fees.

    Irritating.

    • The_Real_A says:

      This is stated in the terms of each hotel. Its normally to your advanatge if you have a fee free credit card.

  4. Ebookers must be part of the Expedia family now. No?

  5. Metatone says:

    So what’s the best hotel aggregator to look at that isn’t owned by Expedia?

    And to second the comment by someone else, if the hotel groups want to compete then need to think beyond penalising customers for using Expedia and start developing better offers when they use their websites. This is especially true in big cities where Expedia lists a lot of good independent hotels that are often just nicer places than the chains.

    • IMO booking.com, or if by aggregator you mean price comparison then kayak.com.

      Conincidentally both owned by Priceline (along with Agoda, rentalcars.com and OpenTable) which rather more quietly has 50% higher revenues than Expedia and three time the market valuation.

  6. Metatone says:

    While I am grousing, it is repeatedly the case that Expedia is more accurate than IHG or Hilton sites at knowing which hotels have a swimming pool. So I end up searching Expedia first every time.

  7. JamesWag says:

    If hotel chains are trying to encourage more direct bookings, why are they constantly devaluing their loyalty programmes ?

    • Uhm inflation correction perhaps.

      • Maybe – but scheme members are generally pretty savvy and know if a direct deal is better than Expedia etc
        There are lots of factors/considerations that go into booking a room. However if you know where you want to go then I suspect most people want the most competitive price, I know I do.
        I’m trying to book a hotel, in Dubai, for October half term, I had the hotel booked for April but switched to a trip to the Maldives, the rate I had got at Easter was £561 a night incl HB( which is pretty good for the room type). My travel agent can currently get the same room at £770 a night incl HB, – the hotel website, with a current 30% sale is £730 first week, a night, and £883 a night BB.
        Expedia is a staggering £1454 a night BB.

        • Lady London says:

          @ Jason this is exactly the sort of situation where hotel points can be useful. Often the points rate is the same all year whereas cash can have peak pricing.

  8. OT, but interesting saw Martin Lewis’ show and he mentioned the same website can show different prices for the same search (using cookies etc) – hotel.com was showing £2177 for a hotel I was looking at, tried the same search on a different laptop via my work VPN and it came up over £2300. It would be interesting to understand the mechanics behind this.

    • There have been various examples of this kind of pricing for years now. Apparently the idea is that companies will work out your income level or other indicators and change the price they present you. There was an article in The Economist last week about this kind of “dynamic pricing” and it mentioned that some people will go into internet cafes (do they still exist) and shop around to get away from their own buyer profile.
      Apparently Amazon got caught doing it with DVDs a few years ago.

    • The_Real_A says:

      I can explain some of the parameters: A tracking cookie can see your hotel searches on other websites (say the hotel direct, or another booking site) including the date and the price returned. A website could then change its price dynamically to be more competitive than the competition. This is similar to say searching for a “bookcase” in Argos, and then for the following weeks be inundated with adverts at the side of other websites for similar items.

      Using a VPN is interesting as the country you appear to come from can legitimately trigger greater liabilities for the company. (In a different industry) We use IP to determine a range of charges/taxes that might not be immediately obvious. Always check your VPN to understand the location and use it to your advanatge.

      • Lady London says:

        I once got sacked from my temporary assignment at a top private equity firm because I commented to one of the partners I was working for that a website you use may be able to know what other websites you use by looking on your computer. I was told this was rubbish and found my booking lasted till the following day rather than the extra week it had been planned to.

        ‘Twas all a long time ago though

    • Have to admit, my first reaction to that sort of behaviour is “Great. We’ll see who gets the better of whom in that little game!” 😉

      • Lady London says:

        If I was clever I would work out how to flip bits on my existing cookies to show a lower price returned but it’s a long stretch to know which website will check for which cookies

  9. 3 billion!? that’s insane

  10. Lady London says:

    OT but a bit like the Cosmetics Hall at Harrods… about half the brands there seem to be owned by Estee Lauder! They are very good at letting each brand keep its identify though… eg MAC and Clinique are very separate in image.