LAS VEGAS -- The Expedia Group of two years ago is no more, according to company vice chairman and CEO Peter Kern, who came onboard around this time in 2020 to replace former CEO Mark Okerstrom.
At the company's annual Explore partner event, Expedia Group unveiled a three-tiered strategy designed to serve its partners, travelers and the industry, including a new technology platform called Expedia Group Open World and a system that rewards hotels for providing a better guest experience.
"This isn't the Expedia Group we were two years ago, let alone two decades ago," said Kern.
The company is No. 1 on Travel Weekly's annual Power List of the world's largest travel sellers.
"We spent the last two years reimagining our potential and decided it was time for a much-needed change," he said. "Rather than a market that has become commoditized around price, we envision a world where travelers are served the right option for their needs, with transparency around value and expectations. We are excited to share the ways we are bringing that to life."
A focus on how traveler experience affects hotel ranking
A key feature of the new vision is a reimagined marketplace that rewards hotels that deliver on the traveler experience. Using data signals including traveler reviews and customer service interactions, hotels will receive a guest experience score that will directly impact the search and sort factors that drive visibility in Expedia Group's marketplace algorithm.
Partners will receive insights and actionable recommendations to improve their guest experience scores aligned with traveler expectations. By implementing this system -- partners who deliver better experiences gain position for more bookings -- Expedia Group expects better connections between partners and travelers and greater traveler long-term loyalty, a priority Kern outlined earlier this week in the company's Q1 2022 earnings report.
"We are redesigning our marketplace all around traveler experience," said Ariane Gorin, president of Expedia for Business. "Travelers search for the right experience at all price points and all levels of star-rating. Our new marketplace will reward partners that put traveler experience first and deliver on the expectations that they've set.
"We want travelers to have great experiences and to make sure partners get credit for the experiences they deliver. Our goal is to build trust with travelers."
According to Clayton Nelson, vice president of strategy and transformation at Expedia Group, the company has vast amounts of data, including around check-in, cleanliness, communication, cancelations, etc., and not just user reviews, to inform how guests experience a property.
The end-to-end scores provide an "incredibly rich picture of what the experience looks like," Nelson said. "Over time, we will engage with and share more of those signals with partners and expose that to travelers" through the guest experience score.
"At a very high level, we want to be fair," he continued. "We have the processes in place that allow for fairness."
As the marketplace evolves, Nelson says, Expedia Group will provide additional programs, including access to higher-tier loyalty members and additional tools that "partners have been waiting for," exclusively to hotels with great performing properties.
The guest experience score will be visible to travelers in the coming months, with plans to roll out to other lines of business later in the year.
Also announced at the event, the Expedia Group Open World technology platform is created for partners to leverage and configure products and services.
It contains an entire e-commerce suite, with components like payments, fraud, conversations and service, that partners can use to enhance their business. It's also designed for anyone looking to enter the travel business.
"Whether you're a bank with a rewards program, an airline who wants to expand their offering, a specialty travel agent focused on underserved travelers or a TikTok influencer helping the world dream of their next destination, if you want to be in the travel business, the Open World platform can help anyone succeed," Kern said.
"By helping everyone take advantage of our technology and supply, Open World will make it possible for our new and existing partners to thrive in the travel market with a suite of solutions tailored to their needs, all powered by our immense artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities," said Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group chief technology officer.
"Choice is also accounted for in our new platform. Partners will be able to pick and choose exactly what works for them."
Additionally, Expedia Group has introduced three features designed to boost confidence and trust to the travel shopping and booking experience.
The features include extending Trip Boards, which serve as a home base for all trip components including hotels, activities and flights, to more product lines. Already on Vrbo, Trip Boards will launch this summer on Expedia.
Meanwhile, the smart shopping feature will make it easier for travelers to compare and choose between a wider range of surfaced options such as hotel room attributes and upgrades as well as flight times, stopovers and seat selection, giving travelers more transparency on their purchase and partners more incremental revenue opportunities. Smart shopping is live now for hotels and coming soon for flights.
Finally, the price tracking feature shows previous trends and future price predictions for flight searches, empowering travelers to see how their flight prices might change and encouraging them to consider flights they may not otherwise book. The feature is currently available on the Expedia app on U.S. point-of-sale for flights and will be extended to hotels later this year.
This report was initially published by Phocuswire, a sister publication to Travel Weekly.