TORONTO—Expedia is a company based on constant A-B testing, and it has come up with a number of ways to help hotel partners, including a sophisticated rate-setting system and integration with Amazon's Alexa.
Late last year, CLN had a chance to tour the Expedia Toronto offices and speak with Bonnie Vesterfelt, area manager for Canada East, in a wide-ranging discussion that took in data trends for the winter, Expedia Partner Central tools, Chinese travel trends and the future of technology for hotels.
“Expedia's thought tools are very advanced and have really evolved in the past 10 years. They are investing in making it a user-friendly platform — on the customer side, Expedia Group invested more than $1.3 billion in technology to make it easier for consumers to search, click and book their trip,” Vesterfelt said.
Winter data and travel trends
The biggest winter data trend that Expedia Group has identified for the Toronto area is an increase in demand. Overall package booking room night stays in Toronto increased by 20 per cent during the winter of 2018 compared to the winter of 2017. There was nearly a 10 per cent increase in Toronto ADR in winter 2018 compared to 2017. And the top five points of sale in winter for both years were: 1) Canada, 2) USA, and 3) UK. But in 2017, numbers 4 and 5 were Japan and Australia; while numbers four and five for 2018 were Mexico and Brazil.
Toronto had more than a 10 per cent increase in domestic room night stay bookings in winter 2018 compared to 2017. In winter 2018, Toronto attracted more domestic demand than Montreal and Vancouver (nearly 15 per cent more than Vancouver and over 30 per cent more than Montreal).
Toronto had more than a 20 per cent increase in international room night stay bookings in winter 2018 compared to winter 2017. However, Vancouver had nearly 20 per cent more international room night stay bookings than Toronto during winter 2018.
Expedia Partner Central tools
“Eighty five per cent of hoteliers don't use revenue management tools,” Vesterfelt said. “Ten years ago, revenue management was very manual, and even now, it can take up from one to three hours per day.”
With Expedia's Rev+ tool, hoteliers can have a revenue management strategy at their fingertips, measure how they are doing versus their competitors and help maximize their bookings at busy times, and see where their customers are coming from.
Expedia Group supports hoteliers with ongoing consulting, free access to data and tools, including Expedia Group Powered Technology. The company found that hoteliers who use Expedia Group management tools saw an average of 20 per cent increase on their revenue. Managers use Expedia Group tools an average five times a day to look at the competitive market.
Expedia Group’s Partner Central Property Analytics was launched in 2017. Hoteliers have access to a customized performance report of the visibility of the property, conversion of customers to bookers, and guest value. The reports are refreshed every 24 hours, and compare data against their own performance or their market for any given period.
“My team partners with hotels to make sure their online presence is solid,” Vesterfelt said. “Expedia has the most knowledge in the marketplace. Best of all, our tool is free.”
Chinese tourism up 70 per cent
The 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism made a difference. Canada is a desirable destination for Chinese travellers, based on the latest Hotels.com study. The number of Chinese travellers to Canada increased by nearly 70 per cent in the past year, pushing Canada up two positions to the 12th most popular destination.
Other study findings included the following:
— Canada is the eighth most welcoming country for Chinese travellers in the world, and third outside of Asia.
— Canada was the second-most visited destination in North America in the past 12 months (10 per cent), beaten by the USA (30 per cent).
— Canada is the destination most favoured for trips once Chinese travellers become parents (11 per cent).
— Canada is the second most popular country for Chinese travellers to visit for the first time in the next 12 months (18 per cent).
— Apart from natural beauty and landscapes, Chinese travellers were interested in music festivals, and quirky or modern art in Canada.
— Key destinations for visitors to Canada were Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
— Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains were the must-see locations for visitors to Canada.
Expedia Technology and Trends
According to Skift, 57 per cent of hotel technology professionals plan to invest more on operations technology in the next 12 months; and 28 per cent want to invest more, but don’t have the budget.
Late last year, Expedia Group extended its Guest Review Insights technology to all hotels following a pilot in several markets. The system looks at data on a property, its competitors and other market intelligence to help hotels learn more about guests’ travel motivations and booking behaviour.
Expedia's Guest Review Insight, is a tool that Involves artificial intelligence. It analyzes traveller comments and summarizes the critics; and allows the hoteliers to analyze feedback of hoteliers in the market.
Expedia also continues to develop virtual assistant tools for hoteliers invoking voice recognition for both Alexa and Google, to do an SEO of hotel properties and make them bookable on voice.
By 2021, there will be 7.5 billion digital assistants in the world, according to Ovum TMT Intelligence. Brand Expedia’s Alexa Skill syncs with customers Expedia account to access upcoming trip details. Currently the technology is only offered in the U.S., in English. As of January 2018, there are approximately 1 billion voice searches per month according to Alpine.AI, and 41 per cent of people using voice search have only started in the last six months, according to TechCrunch.
A shift to mobile
While 15 per cent of Canadian leisure travellers made their last hotel booking via a smartphone or tablets, Expedia Group data also reveals that one third of booking transactions are made via mobile, with more than 50 per cent of traffic now arriving via mobile. Looking ahead, a younger Canadian demographic will continue to drive changes in travel behaviour, including an ongoing shift to online and mobile booking. Online travel booking growth will outpace the overall market through 2021, when online travel penetration will reach 47 per cent, according to Skift.