ITB CEO Interview with Mark Okerstrom, Expedia

ITB CEO Interview with Mark Okerstrom, Expedia


And I believe you said: “We’re now the largest travel platform covering 75 countries and all segments of travel We are truly sitting at the center of the industry.” So could you explain? Yeah, if you think about what we built, it’s pretty remarkable which is you know travel is essentially, it’s one of the largest industries in the world 10% of global GDP One in ten jobs, one in five new jobs are in travel and tourism Last year we did close to one hundred billion dollars in bookings Just shy but almost one hundred billion dollars in bookings And if you think about what the travel industry is it’s essentially connecting people who want to go places with people who will either take them there give them a place to stay or a great thing to do once they get there We sit at the center of all of that So on the traveler side we’re north of seven hundred million visits to Expedia every single month. And how many brands are there? Last I counted I think it was twenty? Many! Close to thirty. So seven hundred million visitors each year No! Each month Month Sorry Each month about two million corporate travelers are using it, we power over one hundred thousand offline travel agents are using it We handled fifty million contact center calls or texts and then on the other side you’ve got a million properties are now in the core platform one point eight million alternate accommodations available on VRBO five hundred airlines, over one hundred fifty thousand car rental companies and we sit in the middle of it all And that’s what you mean by platform? Yes! Yeah, platform I mean we are connecting travelers on one side with the travel providers on the other side and we’re trying to match them in the most intelligent way possible But what we still haven’t done and what is yet to be done is those other great things that travel agents did And many travel agents still do this and we supply a number of them which is say you know what Philip, how was that trip that you took last year? And I know I know that you love to have the corner room and I know that you like the aisle seat and why don’t you take another trip and instead of going Hawaii why don’t you try Mexico? It’s very similar That’s what the hay is Yes, and also if something goes wrong, Philip, I’m going to monitor your trip And if this flight gets cancelled if you’re going to miss your connecting flight I’ll take care of it for you Don’t worry I’ll give you a call, let you know your new flight. That part of travel agency being the advocate for the customer, looking out for them, making sure that you know them, that you’ve got a personal connection That’s what the next twenty years are all about So you know we sit on a massive amount of data, petabytes of data, that would fill you know if they were still disk drives or even just on those sticks it would fill this whole room it’s remarkable And it used to be that really until a year and a half ago maybe two years ago that we would take this data It was called big data For us it’s just data but it was called big data Thank goodness That phrase Yeah, you would take people that used to be analysts and then they became data scientists and those data scientists would get a raise They got a raise Of course! If you change the title have you get a raise, you’re a scientist, of course! And they would do a bunch of analysis and they would produce a report and then they would say here is what we should do Those days are gone It’s gone from big data to streaming data It’s gone from modeling to artificial intelligence and automation And what that’s doing is allowing us to really live up to the promise of the Internet which is I don’t If anyone saw that show Minority Report with Tom Cruise a long time ago But you know he’s walking through a mall and as he’s walking through the mall the advertisements are changing based upon his preferences We can do that now Priceline Group Who?? I don’t know… I thought they were… any way I think they’ve changed their name to booking holdings and not too long after you changed your name to Expedia Group Inc. Yeah. Is this something more for Wall Street or is there something that of value the audience needs to understand? Yeah, well it wasn’t for Wall Street It was actually for all of our stakeholders and all ourselves For employees Yes a little bit for our investors, for our partners for advertisers Really It gave us the opportunity to say you know we’re not a corporate holding company, you know, we are actually the world’s travel platform We were allowed by articulating the new name to hang upon it a whole new vision, a whole new purpose Six strategic imperatives, guiding principles for all of our employees It gave us an identity It gave us something to say hey we’re all part of this for partners to say You know what I’m dealing with Expedia Group It’s not just Expedia or hotels.com or Travelocity or Egencia, the fourth largest corporate travel agency But rather it is Expedia Group and that gave us an identity and it gave us a voice and an image for the whole industry We’re just chatting Lyft just filed two days ago It’s S-1 with the SEC That’s the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States and the formal first step of going public So what are you hearing about the S-1 filing? What do you think is gonna happen? Well first of all I think it’s going to be a very interesting year in the equity markets You’ve got Lyft who’s coming out, Uber’s said they’re coming out, probably Airbnb Airbnb has said they’re coming out, so I think it’s going to be fascinating We have We really are I think towards the end of a cycle where private capital was almost free and these private companies were able to raise billions and billions of dollars which was unheard of They go public at hundred X like Microsoft did or something Yes, and so you know when you end up with these valuations that are so inflated I think you know the risk is you end up like Snap or some of these other companies that have gone public They go public very high and then you know the equity markets in the short term are voting machine in the long term there a weighing machine and ultimately their numbers catch up to them So it’s going to be very very interesting to see what happens So speaking of global and international expansion that’s always a priority for you and the group and you invested in Trivago and Despegar and this and that Traveloka in Indonesia But it’s still really, why is it so difficult, challenging? It’s one of the hardest things you have to do, right? it is one of the hardest things and we’ve made it a real priority I think I talked about the last time we were here one of our big strategic themes is about being locally relevant globally and making sure that we’re building leading experiences country by country and that we’re not just skimming and not just kind of third best at everything And it’s hard, you know, we had a handful of countries that we really focused on by the way countries that in many cases we’ve been in for fifteen years and going through and making sure that you’ve got all the payment types that your tone of voice and your content is in the local, you know, the local language, the local flair, making sure that you’ve got you know all of the photos, making sure that your marketing is locally relevant It’s hard It takes focus And for a global company who at the same time is trying to harness global scale from a technical and operational standpoint it’s a hard, you know, hard thing to do Some interesting lodging statistics I think I have to start with Expedia Forty five percent of room nights booked were in a different country than, in a destination different than the person lived in Yeah, that sounds about right One in three room nights are booked on mobile Yeah, actually 2018 our mobile app growth for brand Expedia and hotels.com 50% year to year and the vast majority of homeway bookings are 4 or more people Yeah, that’s about right Those are sort of unthinkable statistics just a few years ago But would you say it’s more than about Expedia like I always try to help the people in the audience that if their business isn’t trending like somewhat in this direction they should be thinking about this to grow Well you listen the world is going mobile I mean it’s happened That’s the thing I mean we’re developing mobile first and you know that’s why our caps are growing so quickly And so that’s absolutely happening People are traveling international now I wonder with the economic signals we’re seeing whether things might go a little bit more domestic for awhile That often happens during downturns but the first thing that people do when they want a, when they get a little bit extra money in their pockets they want to go explore They want travel and so these people are going to travel internationally So booking.com gets twenty percent of its gross volume in alternate accommodations with one brand Expedia uses the HomeAway brand which is the correct strategy? Well, so remember that Booking Holdings also has Agoda They’ve also got Kayak They’ve also got… Priceline, remember Priceline I went to high school with Jay Walker Okay? Yeah, he’s a great guy. So it’s not necessarily that they have a different strategy It’s just they’ve got this one business called booking.com which just exploded again through great execution that we have a huge admiration for We’ve had a bit more balance Hotels.com has done exceptionally well Expedia has done exceptionally well, Travelocity Orbitz So we just got a different mix of our portfolio We don’t have one that’s just been incredible Although I’d love to have one or two I’d love to have Booking Holdings as part of Expedia but that’s not gonna happen… Keep wishing! What do you got? What’s Expedia thinking is going to happen at Airbnb with Fred Reid? I think they may be thinking about starting up a little transportation business maybe little flights business And you think they’ll do that by acquisition mostly or do you think they’ll do the unthinkable organic? I don’t know what they would acquire, but listen I think that you know all of the airline partners I think all five hundred plus of our airline partners are dying for another online distribution partner Oh for sure! They’d love one So you know… So what will happen? It’s unlikely that global aviation will incrementally grow if and when Airbnb launches an online air business So those transactions are either going to shift from the likes of Expedia over or from supply. So what do you think will or won’t work? Well… It would probably work. I think that Airbnb did an incredible thing They built an incredible business with an incredible brand that stands for something It’s a niche business It’s a big niche It’s a beautiful niche but it’s a niche business and it is very hard. Vacation rentals? Yeah, alternative accommodations is one piece of a one point seven trillion dollar market and the other big piece of it is air etcetera Thirty or forty billion dollars Yeah, well even more Thirty and thirty to forty if you just add up HomeAway, Vrbo and Airbnb Not to mention Booking Holdings and what we do on Expedia But, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that goes through property managers etcetera, huge But it is very hard for brands to port themselves into other lines of business We know it The people of Booking Holdings know it consumer products companies know it, it’s very difficult And add to that just the technical challenges of running a flights business I mean we’re doing, I think the last stats like crazy like fifteen billion flight searches, you know per month or some crazy numbers You have to have huge infrastructure You’ve got to be incredibly good at, you know, probabilistically figuring out fares, availability It’s hard. GDS connectivity and then low cost carrier connectivity And who wants to build another API through another third party distribution channel It’s very hard. But they’re going to have to, right? Well they can build whatever they want But they got to get the airlines and the GDSs to help them along the way So again I’m not saying it’s impossible I’m just saying that expanding into a low margin business that is highly competitive that costs a lot of money and expertise to build and requires the cooperation of people who don’t necessarily want what you’re building to exist is hard What’s going on in the space and is Expedia going to hit the reset button in tours and activities? Not a reset button It’s a, and again we’ve been in this business for almost 20 years Yeah, you know we do, you know, north of half a billion dollars of activities business and you know it’s a great business It’s a great business I think that it is one of those businesses though that is has a huge amount of fragmentation on the supply side It has been one of those businesses that until the advent of Mobile it was something that was hard to do online because simply people did not want to book in advance of taking a trip And it’s also not the first thing you book Right, it’s the last thing you book unless you’re going for a concert or you know a Broadway show for example And I think that, you know, as mobile has become more significant We’ve got over three hundred million mobile app downloads Three hundred million? Yeah! You know it starts to become worth aggregating all the fragmentation and you see a lot of players that are actually doing it And remember this is a big industries north of one hundred billion dollars in activities from what I’ve seen. Latest I saw was one seventy or one eighty billion Yeah,p it makes sense that because of the fragmentation I think there’s a great revenue pool opportunity because you’ve got consumers now who you could hit in destination You know I think capital looks to go to new things where there’s some contextual change and the contextual change here is that mobile is now in everyone’s pockets and you’ve got the ability through location ID and through artificial intelligence to serve real time relevant offers to customers in destination I think that’s a great contextual change and I think you’ve got a number of players like Fair Harbor like Klook that are going in and doing the hard work of getting all of supply side working And so that’s what’s happening And of course we are doing the same thing So we’ve got a mantra being locally relevant globally It’s about being customer centric And this amongst so many other customer categories are you know things that we haven’t historically gotten right I mean, you know, I think about you know in the Middle East generally, you know, we have not been particularly locally relevant we haven’t been particularly customer centric We’re going to fix that Even families We have not been customer centric in addressing family needs I think that, you know, huge huge opportunity obviously for us to be more customer centered, more locally relevant It’s on the list, you know, we will get to it amongst the billions of things that we can do better, this is absolutely one of them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *