Expedia CEO: Technology will win the day in travel

"The technology revolution is absolutely happening," said Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom.
"The technology revolution is absolutely happening," said Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

LAS VEGAS -- Under the leadership of CEO Mark Okerstrom, Expedia Inc. aims to use technology to become more customer-centric.

"In the race of man versus machine, in the area of delighting the customer, so far man has won," Okerstrom said during the Expedia Partner Conference at the Aria Resort & Casino here on Wednesday. "But in the future, we think the machine can win."

Technology has taken off, with voice technology, virtual reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence all areas of investment.

"The technology revolution is absolutely happening," he said.

Funding for travel startups is also increasing, Okerstrom said, and "the pace of change is accelerating."

Expedia's former CFO took to the conference's stage for the first time as the company's CEO after Dara Khosrowshahi left in September to lead Uber.

While the CEO has changed, Okerstrom contended that his plan for Expedia's future is not radically different than his predecessor's.

He outlined three areas of focus for the company going forward: Accelerating its global push, being more customer-centric and speeding up innovation.

According to Okerstrom, Expedia is nearly done expanding its borders, as it has a presence in dozens of countries. Now, its focus is on becoming more locally relevant in markets around the world with local inventory and perfect translations on its sites.

Becoming more customer-centric is also a focus.

Okerstrom outlined a future where leisure travelers could begin to benefit from technologies already in use by Expedia's corporate arm, Egencia. A family facing a flight cancellation could automatically receive notice with new flight and/or hotel options. The solution is not far off from becoming reality, the CEO said.

As far as bookings, Expedia continues to grow. By the end of the third quarter, around $86 billion in bookings were completed on Expedia's platforms worldwide, growing at rates of more than two times the industry overall, Okerstrom said. Much of that growth came from international bookings, which were up 22% year over year.

Much business shifted to mobile, with 45% of global transactions happening on mobile devices, and 55% of traffic coming from mobile devices, Okerstrom said.

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