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Phocuswright Europe: Breakwell tips Amazon and Facebook as travel disruptors

Posted by Lee Hayhurston
Phocuswright Europe: Breakwell tips Amazon and Facebook as travel disruptors

The rise of voice search and social commerce were tipped to be the most disruptive trends in travel by a founder of Expedia.

Simon Breakwell, who was one of the team at Microsoft that created the global OTA 20 years ago, said established dominant models would be threatened.

He picked our Amazon’s Alexa as particularly promising as the online retailer moves into online search.

Breakwell said this is significant for brands like Expedia and booking.com that pay Google around $10 billion annually to appear in its top search results.

“When you are talking to Alexa you just want one flight – the best one. This means a lot to the Google model and a lot for how OTAs are going to be distributed.”

Breakwell, venture partner at Technology Crossover Ventures, said social messaging was also going to be disruptive as commerce becomes more a part of that with Facebook leading the way.

“If people think Facebook isn’t going to monetise that they are wrong. Facebook will figure out how to do travel.”

Personalisation will be driven by huge computing power, added Breakwell, but that more development would happen on the supply side so that firms will know what product to serve up to customers.

Breakwell, who is chairman of bid data start-up bd4travel, said this will see personalisation being “done on the fly”.  “Things like that are going to be important going forward.”

Airbnb came in for significant praise from Breakwell who said it had from nowhere developed a brand that means more to many consumers than some major hotel chains.

“Where they can take that and how powerful it can become is just immense. Ultimately it’s because the product is just so compelling. It’s fantastic.

He denied that Airbnb was losing focus by extending its offer to non-accommodation product like attractions and flights.

“I think they are growing like a rocket. You have to experiment and I am sure there are things that will fail or not be as successful as they think.

“Do not think they won’t be absolutely gigantic. When my kids’ generations grow up and they are used to staying in places lie that rather than a Hilton or Marriott it’s at that point when lodging becomes far more widely defined.”

Breakwell said hotels were “farting against thunder” by trying to stifle Airbnb’s threat by demanding legislation.

“It’s absolutely happening. Hotels are doing what they can to differentiate they product but it ain’t working.”

Asked what has surprised him most about developments in travel, Breakwell said the amount the likes of booking.com Priceline and Expedia have to spend on marketing was one.

Secondly, he said the impact of mobile on human behaviour which he said has “changed the way humanity works”.

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