Expedia raises its game with new price guarantee

Expedia.com has introduced a new price guarantee that is the broadest among US-based e-commerce players.


Travelocity.com already had a service guarantee and a lowest-rate pledge for cruises and hotels. And Orbitz.com says ‘shop no further’ because it guarantees its airfares and hotel rates.


Expedia.com’s Best Price Guarantee, unveiled along with a new branding campaign, raised its existing merchant hotel and cruise guarantees and extended its price matches to air, vacation package, car and destination activity bookings.


If consumers find a lower rate on another US-based website within 24 hours of booking travel on Expedia.com, the online agency will refund the difference and provide a $50 coupon toward certain future hotel and vacation package bookings.


However, there are exceptions. For airfares, the lower rate would have to be $6 below the Expedia price to qualify because the online agency is sticking with its $5 booking fee for flights.


The guarantee does not extend to Hotwire and Priceline.com.


Expedia.com senior vice-president of marketing, Donna Wells, said the online agency “absolutely expects” consumers to sometimes find lower prices elsewhere and that Expedia Inc will feel “a financial impact” from the new policy.


But, Wells said Expedia is in a unique position to implement a broad guarantee because most of its agreements already include pricing parity.


“We are trying to signal to the industry that the game is changing and we are raising the level,” said Wells, arguing that Expedia will be able to neutralise the pricing issue and differentiate itself through call centre service, site content and technology.


Expedia packaged the guarantee with the Expedia Promise, a seven-plank pledge to provide reliable information and competitive prices.


Industry observers reacted to the initiatives, saying Expedia indeed is doing many things right, although several were unimpressed with the guarantee.


Krista Pappas, whose company features the BookingBuddy search tool, said Expedia’s guarantee won’t change consumer behaviour and stop them visiting multiple websites, because “Expedia may not have everything”.


Travelocity chief marketing officer Jeffrey Glueck added: “We believe the equation that matters to consumers is price plus service. Price is essential and foundational, but it is not enough to differentiate yourself.”

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