Expedia Group – Market Associate Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine
We know that Expedia group is one of the best travel technology company and travel platform in the world. Expedia Group is present in 200+ travel booking sites in 70+ countries, covers 45% international revenue and has 24.000+ employees in more than 30 countries. Can you please tell us more about Expedia, its vision and strategy and of course about your position and responsibilities as a market specialist in Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine?
You noted correctly that Expedia Group is not just an OTA, it is indeed a travel-platform, with the help of which the traveler can completely form his/her trip: starting from buying a ticket and booking a hotel to renting a car and buying a cruise, tickets to a concert or sightseeing tour. For the corporate segment, there is a resource Egencia that is also not limited to the offer of new properties.
The company is focused on the customer and aims to be locally relevant on a global basis, therefore, in 2019, it will continue to develop its customer products: add new points of sale, localized for different countries, add new suppliers (distributors) (including actively engaging new accommodation facilities), expanding the choice of currencies for mutual settlements of payments with both guests and partners and to achieve maximum competitiveness of the supply.
In the frameworks of this strategy, Expedia Group also actively cooperates with local authorities to advertise new tourist destinations on their websites. For example, last year with the support of GNTA, an ad campaign called “Visit Georgia” was held on the website of Expedia, and before this, the capital of Ukraine was actively advertised on the initiative of the Kyiv Tourism Department.
As a marketing specialist, I work with a portfolio of hotels in Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine. My main purpose is to help partners cooperate with the Expedia Group as efficiently as possible. Every market is very different: each has its own specifics, seasonality and its own advantages. So, in my work there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, I always act from the needs of a particular region. This means that in one period of time I can focus on conducting webinars and training events for partners, in another period I can actively engage in finding new properties or help hoteliers maximize their income during the high season.
Within one region, the needs of hoteliers are not identical as well: with someone, we are purposefully working to increase the share of non-refundable bookings, and with someone, we focus on preserving the leading positions in the rating.
How many properties (hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and homes) Expedia group represents in Armenia?
Currently, Expedia Group has more than three hundred direct contracts with various accommodation facilities in Armenia. Most of these are classic hotels, however, among the total number, there are hostels, guest houses or apartment clusters that correspond to certain requirements. These are the exact places that can be found on Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Wotif and on other websites.
But, since Expedia Group includes several brands, there is an opportunity to differentiate our offer for a guest and combine all alternative means of accommodation (for example, single apartments, cottages or villas) on our other resources – HomeAway and VRBO that are adapted to the search “ vacation rentals “.
From your experience working with Armenian market can you please tell us what problems or issues you face starting from the registration of the property to managing them in Expedia’s platform? What are the points that you see there is a need to improve?
I would note two major challenges that hoteliers make. They can appear at any stage of cooperation with Expedia: both at the very beginning, and after several years of work.
Firstly, hoteliers often forget that working with OTA is a continuous process. There is a misconception that you can simply create room types, set rates, and upload photos, and then wait for bookings. But the market is dynamic, it is necessary to use various promotion tools, update rates, advertise additional hotel services, work with reviews, analyze the demand and the behavior of competitors.
Expedia Group offers a wide range of analytical tools that are available to all our partners in their Extranet including through the mobile application. Therefore, the hotelier can analyze the situation at any time and make changes, for example, in his pricing policy.
I always draw a parallel between the online booking site and the supermarket. In order for a consumer to buy your product, first, it is necessary that he finds it in a huge store, distinguish among others and choose to purchase. In 2019 it is no longer enough just to place a price tag on the packaging of goods, it is necessary to put efforts on its promotion.
In other words, it is important to invest your knowledge and time in working with online resources, and then they will bring the desired income.
Secondly, the lack of understanding of the market situation is often interfering hoteliers and, as a result, the incorrect positioning of the hotel. When we talk with hoteliers about their competitors, our partners name 2-3 properties nearby. Perhaps this is relevant for a business traveler who chooses between several hotels in close proximity to the office of the hotel to the office, the availability of breakfast and the price.
But if you think outside the box and talk about the leisure-segment, then the hotelier must remember that competition is also created by an alternative accommodations – the same apartments that we have already mentioned. Moreover, a competitor can be located not only in Yerevan and even in Armenia, but, for example, a hotel from neighboring Georgia.
Therefore, we always urge to consider your hotel inseparably from global trends: follow how hotels in other countries (especially where potential guests from feeder markets go) position themselves, follow the launches of hotel chains and the arrival of new airlines, communicate with colleagues, alternative resources and the media, to participate in industry events. The comprehension of the market situation is the key to the correct positioning and promotion of the hotel, and not only through online channels.
In my practice, there were cases when the hotel created the demand for a specific destination. People wanted to come to this or that place that they had never heard of before in order to stay at a particular hotel, and the interest for the region contributed to the opening of new accommodation facilities. I wish there were more stories like this.