Expedia reveals new tech platform designed to ‘put travellers first’

Expedia reveals new tech platform designed to ‘put travellers first’

OTA says Open World is the result of reimaging its potential over last two years

Expedia has unveiled a new technology platform it has developed to open up the travel sector to new players and support existing firms operate in a more customer-centric way.

Open World was revealed at the group’s annual EXPLORE partner conference in Las Vegas this week which was being held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The in-house systems has been built to provide a full suite of technological support for Expedia partners to enter the travel sector and to optimise their products and services.

Peter Kern, Expedia Group chief executive, told EXPLORE delegates that Open World is a reimagined global marketplace that rewards partners for delivering great travel experiences. 

He said the launch also represented the change Expedia itself has gone through during the pandemic. “This isn’t the Expedia Group we were two years ago, let alone two decades ago. 

“We spent the last two years reimagining our potential and decided it was time for a much-needed change. 

“Rather than a market that has become commoditised around prices, we envision a world where travellers are served the right option for their needs, with transparency around value and expectations. We are excited to share the ways we are bringing that to life.

Kern added: “Whether you’re a bank with a rewards program, an airline who wants to expand their offering, a speciality travel agent focused on underserved travellers, or a TikTok influencer helping the world dream of their next destination, if you want to be in the travel business, the Open World platform can help anyone succeed. 

“Our platform, combined with the new innovations we announced today, is driven by our desire to put travellers first because we fundamentally believe that when travellers win – we all win.”

Open World comprises an e-commerce suite of services, with business critical functions like payments, fraud, conversations, and other services that Expedia says “anyone can use to accelerate, enhance, or even enter the travel business”.

And the OTA said it expects, as the platform matures, it will allow developers, data scientists, marketers, and entrepreneurs to create new ways to encourage and enable people to travel. 

Rathi Murthy, chief technology officer at Expedia Group said: “By helping everyone take advantage of our technology and supply, Open World will make it possible for our new and existing partners to thrive in the travel market with a suite of solutions tailored to their needs, all powered by our immense artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.

“Choice is also accounted for in our new platform. Partners will be able to pick and choose exactly what works for them.”

The EXPLORE event also saw Expedia reveal a new hotel guest experience score that will determine search listings based on traveller reviews, customer service interactions and other data points.

The OTA will drive a greater proportion of bookings to those hotels that score highest, incentivising partners to focus on improving their scores. 

Ariane Gorin, president at Expedia for Business, said: “We are redesigning our marketplace all-around traveller experience. 

“Travellers search for the right experience at all price points and all levels of star rating. Our new marketplace will reward partners that put traveller experience first and deliver on the expectations that they’ve set.

“We want travellers to have great experiences and to make sure partners get credit for the experiences they deliver. Our goal is to build trust with travellers.” 

Hotels can access their guest experience score now in their Partner Central portal ahead of it being made public in coming months.

Three other updates announced by Expedia to rebuild customers confidence and enhance transparency included: 

  • Trip Boards, currently used on holiday rentals site Vrbo, will be rolled out to more Expedia sites this summer to offer more trip planning ability. 
  • Smart shopping will be offered for flights as well as hotels to make it easier for travellers to compare offers and surface a wider range of options. 
  • Price tracking which shows flight price predictions and is currently available on the Expedia app and on the website in the US will be extended to hotels this year.

Expedia also announced its unified group loyalty program will be called One Key combining its existing four separate schemes.

From next year One Key members will be able to earn and spend points on Expedia, Vrbo, Hotels.com and other group sites, and on any of their travel products, including air, hotel, holiday rental, car, and cruise.