For months, major hotel chains have been building loyalty by urging customers to book direct rather than through an online travel agency. In order to adapt to this ever-shifting online distribution landscape, Expedia is stepping up its game with some of its most prominent hotel partners to provide services beyond booking.
“We have been trying to be more innovative,” explains Melissa Maher, SVP of Expedia’s Global Partner Group. “We are really focusing on helping our partners grow their business and us being more than just a distribution channel. We’ve been able to use three key assets to accomplish that: Technology, marketing, and data and intelligence.”
This August, the company announced it would be providing Red Lion Hotels Corporation with a boost to its loyalty program. Consumers who come to Expedia who are interested in a Red Lion Hotel and wish to book the membership rate plan are automatically enrolled into Red Lion’s Hello Rewards program.
“Many of our partners find value in building loyalty relationships with consumers. We found that using Expedia as a way to enhance their customer acquisition goals has been very helpful. That was us listening to our partners and working together to address a need that they had,” Maher says. “In the first month, we’ve enrolled over four times the members in Hello Rewards than in the previous four weeks.”
Just last week, Expedia announced another major partnership, this time with Marriott International.
“The package business is very interesting to Marriott,” Maher says. “We were working on some strategic initiatives, and agreed that we would use our dynamic package engine to power Vacations by Marriott.”
By integrating Expedia’s technology to power Marriott’s own packaging platform for Vacations by Marriott on Marriott.com in the United States, Marriott is able to use Expedia’s relationships with over 475 airlines to enhance the consumer experience. Additionally, the company is able to take advantage of Expedia’s test-and-learn philosophy.
“We’re constantly running all sorts of tests on our website in order to improve conversion and make sure that the consumer experience is great,” Maher says. “By us powering their vacation product, it is advantageous all around.”
When it’s not partnering with major chains, Expedia is exploring other ways to be of use to hoteliers. In recent months, Expedia has expanded its Meeting Market site, which automates meetings and incentives for its roughly 300 hotels, primarily in Germany. Another offering is TravelAds, a pay-per-click sponsored listing program that links directly to chains. With an 11 to 1 ROI, Maher says hoteliers are finding great value in the product.
“We’ve constantly listened to our partners,” she says. “But now, more than ever, we’re using the strength of our technology.”