Interview: Why Expedia Partner Solutions is committed to helping TMCs thrive

Expedia Partner Solutions is the B2B brand within Expedia Group, and powers the hotel business of TMCs, airlines, top consumer brands, travel agencies and hundreds of other partners through its API solution, EPS Rapid.

EPS Rapid was launched in 2018 to give companies with a travel offering access to competitive accommodation rates and availabilities from more than 600,000 Expedia Group properties.

It also gives a new sense of flexibility to corporate travel providers, allowing them to enhance their offering with more relevant properties, all while supporting duty-of-care.

Below, Alfonso Paredes (pictured above), vice-president and managing director, EMEA & LATAM at EPS, outlines EPS Rapid’s benefits.

Stay flexible
EPS offers flexible cancellation policies and payment options. This includes the ability to pay upon booking or at the property, with bookings available up to 500 days in advance, or up until 23:59 on the day of check-in. Our last-minute availability is a pull for TMCs because business trips can be booked without much notice, so having a good selection of properties for those “drop of a hat” trips is important. We also provide flexible payment options with a mix of pre-pay and post-pay rates; we know flexible cancellation policies are important as business plans can change from week-to-week.

EPS Rapid integrates with key agent and online booking tools, including Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, Concur and more

Keeping in policy
In our research of 171 TMCs, 68 per cent of business travellers book half or more of their travel outside approved tools. Today, we work with more than 70 TMCs, and they like to work with us as we help them reduce corporates’ out-of-policy programme leakage by increasing hotel attach. As we have all of the Expedia Group supply in place, we can provide TMCs with the same inventory their customers and travellers see on a consumer app, which is what they expect. We also provide hotel supply in geographies where the travel partner has gaps – and where their corporate clients need it.

Filter results
Our personalisation algorithms allow corporate travel partners to filter out hotels that are not suitable for their travellers or do not meet their needs. EPS Rapid considers more than 50 attributes of each property (such as star rating, room or bed type, chain affiliations, whether or not the hotel is running a promotion, and even the language spoken at the front desk). If a business travel policy dictates hotels must be 3-star or above, or with a certain hotel chain, our travel partners can filter these results to be mapped to their booking system through EPS Rapid.

Expedia Group uploads around 15,000 new properties every month and it’s our priority to help our travel partners highlight which of these best suits their travellers. Every time our API assists with a trip search, the focus is on personalisation. We give our travel partners the best possible tools to prioritise the search results they return, whether they are looking for a short stopover in Amsterdam, or a week in Chicago.

A lot of TMCs rely on our team of 1,300 highly trained service agents

Our analysts and account managers work hand in hand with each travel partner to consult them on the relevant properties our machine learning has identified to see the greatest uplift. Our data scientist team has also created a deep learning algorithm looking back at several years of data from across all Expedia brands, suggesting the right hotels for each of our travel partners, including TMCs. We’ve tested this with more than 40 travel partners and it’s creating great results, especially when combined with our consultative approach.

Duty-of-care
EPS supports duty-of-care. With easy-to-track itineraries, corporate travel partners can not only locate their employees but also get in touch with them when they need to. We know providing excellent customer service to travellers really matters. A lot of TMCs rely on our team of 1,300 highly trained service agents to offer either customer direct service and/or agent-to-agent support. In July this year, we launched version 2.3 of EPS Rapid, with enhancements such as EPS Conversations – a feature that allows business travellers to communicate directly with properties after completing a booking. It’s ideal for those staying in a rental apartment who need to know how to access the property or find the keys.

Certified Technology Partner Program
There are more than 360 travel technology companies around the world, and our Certified Technology Partner Program is a shortlist of what we consider to be the best platforms available. Platforms only achieve EPS certification if they meet our strict criteria for tech partner support and technical expertise – it’s essentially a quality stamp of approval.

Through this program, we aim to give increased visibility to our certified technology partners and assure travel companies that if they collaborate with one of them, their business will be in good hands.

Consumer-grade experience
We’ve seen through our own research that today’s travellers want online booking to have a personalised feel, as if they were booking face-to-face with a travel agent. As Expedia Group’s chief executive Mark Okerstrom says, it’s about “putting the A back into OTA” – giving an agency feel while pushing the boundaries of developing technology.

This applies to corporate as well as leisure travelers. EPS Rapid’s personalisation capabilities speed up and simplify the process of travel booking by prioritising the most relevant accommodations resulting in an improved experience for the end traveler and greater satisfaction for our TMC partners.

In 2018, Expedia Group invested US$1.6 billion in technology innovation

Powered by machine learning, the new Recommendations API displays personalised, data driven and intelligent recommendations to accelerate product discovery and lower abandonment rates to achieve greater customer loyalty. Cross-sell Recommendations boost conversions and upsell properties by surfacing property recommendations based on a traveler’s flight information. These recommendations are calculated based on a number of different traveler signals – from cabin class, through to origin destination – so that the most relevant accommodations can be surfaced for that traveler.

Smooth integration
EPS Rapid integrates with key agent and online booking tools, including Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, Concur and more. Our integration consultants work closely with our travel partners to ensure EPS Rapid is integrated as seamlessly as possible, with minimal disruption during, and post-launch. The account management teams provide support to enable the travel partner to make the best possible use of EPS Rapid’s benefits to reach their business goals.

Expedia isn’t just about leisure
At EPS, we’re committed to helping TMCs thrive. One of the greatest advantages is EPS can take the learnings and investments from Expedia Group in the leisure sector and apply it to B2B travel. In 2018, Expedia Group invested US$1.6 billion in technology innovation and for EPS, this centres around how best to use artificial intelligence and machine learning. While TMCs have unique needs, business travellers expect to have the same personalisation when they book a trip. They want relevant and timely accommodation, a positive booking experience, and support when they need it. That’s our sweet spot.

TMCs like to work with us because we:

  • Help them to reduce corporates’ out-of-policy programme leakage by increasing hotel attach.
  • Because we have all of the Expedia Group supply, we can provide TMCs with the same travel supply that their customers and travellers see on a consumer app, which is what they expect.
  • Provide them with a leading hotel API that supports integrations to key agent and online booking tools.
  • Help them increase revenue from hotel bookings with EPS commissionable rates.
  • We know providing excellent customer service to travellers really matters. A lot of TMCs rely on our team of 1,300 highly-trained service agents to offer either customer direct service and/or agent-to-agent support.

expediapartnersolutions.com

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