Hotels.com has unveiled a new app that can generate a virtual hotel room-key on a mobile phone, as well as offering mobile check-in and checkout.
Speaking at the Expedia Partner Conference at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, senior vice-president Neha Parikh said: “This is a really big, exciting opportunity for our hotel partners.” She said the virtual key app is currently being piloted and will be rolled out in Q1 2017.
She also demonstrated Expedia bookings via Facebook messenger, saying that 11 per cent of the world’s population uses the Facebook tool.
Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi told delegates the company is set to become the world’s first $100 billion travel agency by 2020. He said that in the 20 years since its inception, Expedia has grown to currently transacting $71 billion annually across all its 16 brands, and is seeing 29 per cent year-on-year growth.
Khosrowshahi said the group’s decision to invest heavily in technology throughout the financial crisis of 2007-08 was a key factor in its current success.
He added that the group is focusing strongly on mobile technology, as 40 per cent of all Expedia transactions are done via mobile, and the percentage is growing.
Looking ahead, Khosrowshahi said: “Currently one-third of our business is outside the US. We want to grow that to two-thirds.” To that end, he said, Expedia is investing in the Asia Pacific market, which has 60 per cent of the world’s population and is a big adopter of mobile transacting.
The CEO added that customers are increasingly “brand agnostic” and want to see all content. But as content increases, it is important for the company to focus on personalisation, “so that the customer is not overwhelmed by too many choices.”
‘Voice is the future’
Khosrowshahi also said that “natural language search” – i.e. voice recognition technology will become increasingly important in future. Aman Bhutani, president of Brand Expedia Group, told delegates about the new ‘Expedia Skill’ app for Amazon Echo, the voice-interactive virtual assistant tool. He showcased the app in a video showing how add a car-rental booking to an itinerary – searching, choosing and booking just by speaking a few words to the device. This capability is “just the start,” he said, adding that “for interfacing with customers, voice is the future. This excites us.”
Chief financial officer Mark Okerstrom predicted that global GDP will grow 3.3 per cent in 2017, while spending on travel will be up around 5 per cent, on a 2016 global spend of $1.36 trillion.