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Hotel & Travel Meta-Search: Trends and Innovation

  1. Travel & Hotel Meta Search Trends & Innovation Hamutal Schieber and Ruth Lewin-Chen, January 2018
  2. Introduction • Meta-search engines provide consumers a time-saving solution for searching for the best deal, through aggregation of multiple hotel, flight and other travel sources into one website. • Traditionally, meta-search engines received commissions from hotels, but today, some competitors pursuit the OTA (online travel agency) model of direct booking. • Price comparisons were the initial driver for the industry, but today, competitors move beyond price, to add value through content, personalization and service, but above all – reviews. “Aggregation, aggregators, and meta have become huge… Users (are) no longer going just to one place and expecting to get the best price”. (HotelTonight on Why Last-Minute Bookings Are the Way to Go August 1, 2017)
  3. The Travel Market and Purchase Funnel • Meta-search engines are usually “top of funnel”, while OTA’s are further down the funnel. Online search, social media and marketplace companies: Google, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Facebook, Alibaba, and Amazon. Hotel metasearch providers: Trivago, Kayak, International, Ltd., and HotelsCombined OTAs: Expedia, Inc., The Priceline Group, Inc. and their subsidiaries, Tripadvisor. Global hotel chains seeking to promote direct bookings, boutique hotels, apartment rentals Awareness Interest Action • Priceline says it recognizes a trend to move up the funnel through Google search strategy, reviews and content creation, while up the funnel companies try to drive economics by moving down the funnel, e.g. TripAdvisor with Instant Booking, to monetize the traffic.
  4. The Travel Market and Purchase Funnel • TripAdvisor demonstrates key success factors along the shopper’s journey:
  5. Top of Funnel: Key Success Factors Content • Reviews • Mobile • Video • Local language Data • Social media • Search • Personalized offers Awareness • advertising • CRM • WoM
  6. Top of Funnel: Awareness • Global search volumes for main OTA and meta-search competitors, last 12 months (taken on Feb, 2018)
  7. Top of Funnel: Awareness • Interest by region:
  8. Top of Funnel: Awareness • Statista checked the usage popularity of different platforms by US travelers, used in order to compare fares. • Expedia, tripadvisor, orbitz, priceline and kayak who were ranked at the top 5 by familiarity are also leading by usage.
  9. Top of Funnel: Awareness • Resources travelers used when selecting vacation accommodation worldwide in 2016, by age (Statista) 52% 60% 54% 55% 47% 45% 36% 45% 30% 25% 20% 26% 23% 22% 16% 21% 19% 15% 11% 16% 0.0% 10.0% 20.0% 30.0% 40.0% 50.0% 60.0% 70.0% 18-34 35-54 55+ Global Shareofrespondents Age TripAdvisor Online travel agent Word-of-mouth Other travel review sites Content posted by friends/family Source: TripAdvisor; Ipsos: Worldwide; June 21 to July 8 2016; 18 years and older; 36,444
  10. Data at the Top of the Funnel • One of the most important trends in the meta search industry is the availability of data in the hands of Facebook, Baidu, Google, Apple, Alibaba, Amazon and others. This can enable these competitors to leverage search, mobile and other aspects. • Google has entered various aspects of the online travel market, including by establishing a flight meta-search product (“Google Flights”) and a hotel meta-search business ("Hotel Ads") that are growing rapidly, as well as its "Book on Google" reservation functionality.
  11. Content at the Top of the Funnel • Momondo, acquired by the Priceline Group, uses dynamic content to drive additional conversions.
  12. Industry Consolidation • The digital travel industry experiences high consolidation rates. – One of the leading groups is, a leading full service online travel company with localized sites in 33 countries and the parent company of, Orbitz, Expedia, Trivago, HomeAway, Egencia and Travelocity. – TripAdvisor, in addition to the flagship TripAdvisor brand, manages and operates 23 other travel media brands. • In 2017, new markets, and deeper penetration into the flight meta-search business, seem to be the motivations for M&A activity. – Priceline Group (owner of Kayak) in July 2017 paid about $550m of international cash to close Momondo acquisition. The company expects the acquisition to have materially accretive impact to KAYAK's results and to help KAYAK accelerate its international growth and build its scale in the meta-search channel. – Ctrip, a Chinese travel company, acquired SkyScanner, to gain foothold in Europe.
  13. Expansion of Services • Meta-search engines move from offering only hotels or flights, to offering both, and many went on to offer attractions, car rentals and other services. • However, it seems that most of the traditional hotel meta-search players are yet to find success from products beyond hotels. • A Statista survey that was conducted on April 2017 found that 73% of travelers in the USA, book flights through airline websites, followed by 59% who use online travel agencies. • Far behind, 27% of travelers use meta search engines such as and 15% book through brick and mortar travel agencies.
  14. Monetization Strategies: TripAdvisor • TripAdvisor says many people are just “looking around” and not ready to book; and the challenge is to monetize these people. Source: Liberty Interactive Corp Investor Meeting - Final FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire November 16, 2017; TripAdvisor “570 million reviews, an enormous amount of flow. And shame on us, if we can't find a way to monetize that.” GREGORY B. MAFFEI, Liberty Media
  15. Monetization Strategies: TripAdvisor • Currently, the company has 2 monetization strategies for “middle of the funnel” visitors: CPM (>$100mn business) and Hotel Business Listing Subscriptions (also > $100mn). Other initiatives include a new discovery product for restaurants - TripAdvisor Ads. And so, in order to appear on the 1st page of TripAdvisor, a restaurant owner can either build a better reputation – or buy a click to the restaurant page. • The company plans to do the same for hotels.
  16. Monetization Strategies: TripAdvisor • “Instant booking is a minority of our total auction revenues. So meta is still by far the larger revenue stream.” • In addition to offering Instant Booking, TripAdvisor has expanded into non-hotel segment offering.
  17. Monetization Strategies: Priceline • Priceline, which is an OTA, sees its comprehensive inventory as a competitive advantage, which would be hard for meta-search sites to achieve. The company notes that in markets outside of the USA, the company’s share of independent hotels is very high. • Priceline considers meta-search to be the most convenient way for consumers to search for travel products. The company competes with TripAdvisor and Trivago directly, through Kayak and now, Momondo. • It also have a strategic partnership with Ctrip, the #1 online travel company in China. 9.48 16.91 23.37 33.3 43.64 47.97 58.64 4.17 4.75 5.09 5.87 6.66 7.56 9.45 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 GrossbookingsinbillionU.S. dollars International Domestic Gross bookings of Priceline Group worldwide from 2010 to 2016, by region (in billion $ U.S.) Revenue of Priceline Group worldwide from 2007 to 2016 (in billion U.S. dollars) 1.41 1.88 2.34 3.08 4.36 5.26 6.79 8.44 9.22 10.74 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 RevenueinbillionU.S.dollars
  18. Monetization Strategies: Kayak • Kayak offers “compare vs. Kayak” to encourage travelers not to leave the site, and drive them further down the funnel.
  19. Monetization Strategy: Kayak • KAYAK derives revenues from sending referrals to OTCs and travel service providers and from advertising placements on its websites and mobile apps. KAYAK offers its services in approximately 40 countries, with the United States being its largest market.
  20. Monetization Strategy: • opened a media business called “The Travel People”, aiming to become “a publisher, rather than a brand”. The company’s OTA sites across Europe work as content hubs, around the concept of “Travel People”. Video content is a special focus for the internal hubs. • While will develop slightly different "personalities" in different countries through microsites, these will all tie in to the brand's main strategy. • The company also acquired Hotelscan, to broaden its offering by adding more accommodation providers. Its main brand Jetcost, is primarily focused on flights.
  21. Mobile Strategy • Mobile is rising as part of the seamless digital experience. “Many, many consumers are going back and forth, back and forth. They look on their mobile, and then they go home, they use their desktop” (Glenn Fogel, CEO, Priceline) Momondo (part of the Priceline Group) mobile apps for flights Priceline’s apps, including a smart watch app
  22. Mobile Strategy • TripAdvisor is driving conversion on mobile. In Q3 2017 “we were close to 50% growth in our revenue from phone”, said Stephen Kaufer, President and CEO.
  23. Customer Service • Companies find that, despite the buzz around AI and bots, people still want to talk to a real person. • HotelTonight has automated a concierge service for its guests in major markets: HT Pro. “The pro can help you with everything from 'tell me the cool coffee shop,' to 'where do I want to go for dinner,' to 'can you just call the hotel and make sure housekeeping comes,' or 'can you get me more towels.' And it's all just a chat interface.”
  24. Voice & Artificial Intelligence • SnapTravel aims to find you a hotel based on your budget and preferences via SMS, Facebook Messenger or Slack. It uses a combination of artificial and human intelligence to search Expedia, Priceline and more than 100 other sites for the best deal, and claims to have “secret deals” of its own. The chat also enables speaking to a real human. • Google uses AI to recommend better deals for hotels and flights.
  25. Voice & Artificial Intelligence • Skyscanner’s Cortana skill includes the ability to ask about indicative pricing on any flight route, in addition to the best time to book routes, and live flight status information. • Skyscanner has become a pioneer in the bots and conversational search space, having been among the first to launch chat bots on both Facebook’s Messenger platform and Skype, as well as on Amazon’s Alexa voice service (in 2016).
  26. Hotel Relationships Tools • Management tools Marketing • Advertising and raising awareness to the brand Revenue • Driving revenue to hotels
  27. Hotel Tools • Trivago, Priceline, Tripadvisor and Expedia all offer hotel management tools, to deepen their ties with hotel partners as well as to drive revenue. Tripadvisor offers a “Storyboard” function for “attention grabbing” presentation.
  28. Meta Search Key Success Factors Convenience • Mobile apps • Global aggregation of real-time hotel / flight supply • Tailored hotel/ flight/ attraction search functions • Wide selection of both chains and independent hotels / attractions • Service – inc. chats, AI, Voice Price • Transparent price comparison • Best price guarantee • Price alerts Content • Verified reviews • Easy to use information • Expert content • Personalization • Ongoing content marketing Hotelier / Restaurateur Tools • Advertising options • Profile management and enhancement • Ability to add dynamic / video profiles • Data and intelligence
  29. Thank You! The research was conducted by: Ruth Lewin Chen, Hamutal Schieber Schieber Research | Market Research & Competitive Intelligence | More articles and researches on Carmelon Digital Marketing website: