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?
Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited
A hotel-owned OTA? Sorry, everyone, you may have the cart before the horse! How about an OTA that buys a hotel brand? I made this bold forecast back (maybe) six-seven years ago. What is a hotel brand, really, without distribution? If the battle for eyeballs is between Expedia and Priceline, why not secure your inventory through ownership. Think: you can control pricing, ensure your products are 'first' in the pecking order, and even manage commission structures. While it may seem far fetched, COVID-19 may create some valuations that could encourage a large cash-rich and levered Wall Street guru to bundle it. I'm not counting anything out at this stage.