Exclusive ITB Feature: If you want to grow, choosing what you don't do is just as important as choosing what you do, says Mark Okerstrom, CEO of Expedia Group Inc, speaking at the ITB Berlin this week.
"The global economy is always a factor, but it is out of our control. Competitors are going to do what they are going to do: The second you start looking at them, trying to copy is the second you are one step behind."
"Instead, come up with your own strategy, get clear metrics, decide how you are going to play," he added. "That's how are you going to win."
"Of course, the biggest challenge is execution," he added.
Expedia.com first appeared on the web as Microsoft Expedia Travel Services in 1996, a single website service. Today, the Expedia Group Inc. is a dominant player in the consolidated global online travel place with a portfolio of over 200 of the world’s top online travel brands and related travel services across 75 countries: These include Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, CarRentals.com, Wotif, Egencia, HomeAway and a majority stake in Trivago.
Recently, Expedia Group reported its fourth quarter results for 2018, reporting 13 percent growth in bookings worth almost $100 billion, and 12 percent revenue growth over 2017 to $11.2 billion.
Along the way, managing the group was key, Okerstrom said. Rebranding recently was an important step: Last year, Expedia Inc. rebranded to Expedia Group, Inc. Okerstrom says it was a strategic decision to shore up identity.
"We are not corporate holding – we are the world's largest travel company," said Okerstrom. "This says, you are not dealing with (a single company)…you are dealing with the Expedia group. The change gave us an identity, a voice, an image for the whole industry."
Meanwhile, he says that where Expedia still has much to do in localization. While Expedia Group accounts for 13 percent of the total travel market in the United States and Canada, its share is only 3 percent of the European market and 2 percent of the Asia Pacific and Latin American markets.
"One of our big strategic themes is being relevant locally…not being third best at everything, it's hard," Okerstrom said. "You have to make sure you have all payment types, a voice with the local flair, that you are marketing locally relevant messages. We are subscale in China, in India, not so relevant in the Middle East. We have always had geographic holes."
"It's among the billion things we are looking at, and could do to do better," he added.
Still, he said that the company doesn't plan new acquisitions anytime soon.
"We have got to a position – we really have everything we need strategically, we are strategically complete," he said. "What we need to do – take this incredible thing we built, and now operate it better."
The future is all about the customer, he added.
"The first 20 years was about turning the (travel agent's) green screen into (a website, mobile) and empowering the customer – we came so far," Okerstrom said.
"But there much we haven't done," he said. "All those things travel agents did, asking, 'How was that trip? or 'I know you love that corner room, the aisle seat,' or suggesting, 'why don't you try Mexico.' Or if something goes wrong?...these agents take care of it, advocate for customers, look out for them. That's what the next 20 years is about."
Photo: Eros Banaj
This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted. Jabeen Bhatti is reporting exclusively for 4Hoteliers.com at ITB Berlin 2019 - www.4Hoteliers.com/itb.
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