Discounts are still Hotwire's deal at 20

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Founded in 2000, Hotwire was initially a website that featured discounted airfare.
Founded in 2000, Hotwire was initially a website that featured discounted airfare. Photo Credit: Tete_escape/Shutterstock.com

As Hotwire celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, its head, Nick Graham, has his eyes on the future. His goal is to better the booking experience for users who are increasingly using the site to nab last-minute hotel deals while on the go.

Founded in 2000, Hotwire was initially a website that featured discounted airfare, according to Graham, who has worked with Hotwire parent company Expedia Group for 17 years. Graham has worked with the Hotwire brand, specifically, for the past seven years, and has been its head for a little over a year now.

While its initial focus was on airfares, Graham said Hotwire quickly expanded into discounted hotel fares and car rental rates. 

"That's really what Hotwire is known for -- its signature Hot Rate discounted price," Graham said.

Related report: Hotwire campaign touts quick vacation getaways

Hotwire offers discounted rates by not revealing the name of the supplier until after the consumer has made their purchase, protecting the supplier's rate integrity. Those rates are unique to Hotwire and cannot be found across the other brands that fall under the umbrella of Expedia Group. Hotwire does have access to other Expedia inventory, Graham said, that its customers use to compare the Hot Rate to rates of similar hotels in the area.

Since its founding, Hotwire has saved its customers more than $3 billion thanks to its discounted rates, Graham said.

Its user base is also loyal, especially after they book once and see the quality of the hotel in which they end up staying.

"Once they get over that first hump and do it the first time, then we see a really high repeat rate," Graham said.

Nick Graham
Nick Graham

In recent years, the company has noticed a trend: Travelers are booking more spontaneous, last-minute getaways.

"We even see a lot of folks booking while they're on their trip, so either when they're in their car on the way to the destination or landed at the airport [and] now they need a hotel," Graham said.

That trend is new to Hotwire, and one Graham intends to capitalize on by focusing on the experience of the customer booking on the go. He wants Hotwire's mobile app to be "best in class" and has been working to improve it. 

For instance, a new "guaranteed hotels" feature recently launched in the app, showing users the names of two hotels with a discounted rate. They don't know which they will get until after they book. 

Hotwire also recently launched a feature enabling customers to draw the specific area in which they want to stay on a map. They will then see the Hot Deals within that area.

"We're really trying to make our experience in the app amazing," Graham said.

Hotwire is one of several dozen Expedia Group brands. Graham said each is focused on a different segment of customers.

For example, he said, Hotwire focuses on those who want deep discounts. Vrbo, on the other hand, is solely focused on vacation rentals. Expedia is more focused on the full trip, enabling travelers to book their flights, car, hotel, activities and even cruises.

"Each brand goes after a slightly different customer," he said. "There's a different customer base and a different offering that they have for each one of their customers."

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