Is there future for a hotel-owned OTA?
— 8 experts shared their view
Travel suppliers - hotels and airlines - have experimented for years with a supplier-owned online travel agency (OTA) to combat their over-dependency on the mega OTAs like Booking Holdings and Expedia Group. Orbitz started in 2001 as a joint venture of five major U.S. air carriers. The hospitality industry answer to the OTAs was RoomKey — a joint venture among Choice Hotels, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham — launched in January 2012 as "an innovative new online hotel search engine that will provide the simplicity, transparency and breadth of choice consumers expect from a search engine." Both of these attempts to establish a fairer marketplace, a conduit between suppliers/owners of inventory on one side and travel consumers on the other end - failed to gain traction: Orbitz was acquired by Expedia Group in 2015 and RoomKey folded operations in June 2020. Recently, some hotel owners and operators forums - including a prominent one with thousands of hoteliers - have again started discussions about creating a hotel-owned OTA to battle the dominance of Booking and Expedia.
The question here is: In the distribution landscape, is there a place for a hotel-owned OTA, and how viable would be such an initiative?
No - that wouldn't have a strong chance of success. The hotel business is primarily a hospitality retail and real estate business - not a high-performance e-commerce business. The expertise and skills required to be successful as a hotelier are vastly different from the attributes required to succeed in the OTA business. Owners would probably get better returns from their hotel asset if they 'OTA-branded' their property. For the right portfolio of properties, I'm sure an OTA could easily create a hotel brand, to be sold exclusively by them - so the hotelier could just focus on profitable service-delivery.