Online Travel This Week
Top executives at Airbnb, Google Travel, and Agoda separately provided hints in the last few days about upcoming features on their companies’ wish lists.
They revolved around search and “fintech.”
Airbnb Could Add More Host Information
Airbnb Chairman and CEO Brian Chesky said at Skift Global Forum last week that enabling guests to find out additional information about the host, whether that person is a musician or has other appealing traits, could be of great interest.
“There’s a group of people that don’t care a ton who the host is, and where the host is maybe a property management company, and who they are it doesn’t matter as much,” Chesky said. “But there’s probably a much larger group of people that want to stay in a real house. They care who the person is.”
Airbnb recently expanded the categories guests can use to search for properties, including everything from lakefront homes to A-frames and abodes in surfing areas so adding a different way to find out host information could be appealing.
The company’s property listings already provide profiles of hosts, including how many reviews their property has, when they joined Airbnb, whether they are a superhost, and brief descriptions. But Airbnb has been criticized for not identifying whether the seemingly individual host might actually work for a corporate property manager, for example.
“What if you could stay with a musician, and you could see the structured data about who that person is?” Chesky said. “So, I think matching people based on their personal attributes, not just the properties, is key.”
One factor weighing against more Airbnb transparency about hosts is that the company fears more information about hosts could lead to more guests booking directly with hosts, and bypassing Airbnb.
Google Could Bring Back a Flight Price Guarantee
What one might loosely call “fintech” is becoming hotter by the moment in travel, and beyond. It ranges from Booking.com’s new payment systems and Grab’s lending and wealth management services to Hopper’s airfare and hotel price freeze features.
Richard Holden, Google Travel’s vice president of product management, told the audience at Skift Global Forum September 20 that the company is mulling bringing back at flight price guarantee that it tested in 2019, but abandoned during the pandemic.
“That is something that we’re looking at trying to renew in the next year or so, which I think is an interesting opportunity,” Holden said. “The consumers really loved when we experimented with it before. And we work a lot on what I would call insights, price insights both on the hotel side and the flight side. But I wouldn’t say there’s anything that I would deem fintech-specific that we’re announcing at this point.”
Holden appears to be making a distinction between fintech services related to banking or investment, and insurance-like features in travel such as price guarantees.
This is how Holden described an early iteration of the feature in 2019:
“When we predict the price won’t decrease for select itineraries booked between August 13 and September 2, we’ll guarantee the price won’t drop, and we’ll refund you the difference if it does. We’ll monitor the price for you and if the price drops any time before departure, we’ll send you an email letting you know once your flight takes off–so there’s no work on your end. This feature is available for select itineraries originating in the U.S. with domestic or international destinations.”
Agoda to Debut a Price Freeze and Cancellation Insurance
Agoda CEO Omri Morgenshtern told TTG Asia that the Booking Holdings brand plans in 2023 to introduce price freeze and cancellation insurance features.
This could be coming from a partnership with Hopper, although none has been announced. Agoda sister company Kayak already has a Hopper partnership.
Enhanced Fee Disclosure Could Be Coming for Airlines and Online Travel
The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing that airlines, online travel agencies, offline travel agencies and metasearch engines provide consumers with more complete airfare pricing data, including information about ancillary services and cancellation fees, in initial search results. Don’t count on this happening soon because of the required tech changes alone would be substantial. Skift
Expedia CEO Claims Online Travel Has Lots of Growing Room
Online travel still controls only a relatively small percentage of the global travel market so there is plenty of room for future growth. That was Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern’s take at Skift Global Forum — and, not withstanding a tough competitive environment — he’s right. Skift
Oyo Eyes 2023 IPO But Softbank Trimmed Its Valuation
Oyo, the India-based budget hotel and short-term rental operator and distributor, hopes to go public in 2023, but its Softbank patron reportedly downsized Oyo’s valuation. As for many others, it’s been a very tough road for Oyo since 2019. Skift and Skift
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