OTAs have the scale and funds to invest in emerging technologies that many hotels are unable to access, the boss of booking.com parent Priceline told this week’s Eyefortravel Europe summit.
Opening this year’s event, Glenn Fogel said technology is solving issues faster and faster today, but it can be expensive to develop and implement.
“That’s one thing we bring to the table,” he said. “You look at some of our hotel supplier partners, small boutique and medium sized hotels and even small chains – they cannot afford it.
“We can bring that to them at much lower cost and they can concentrate on the things that make a hotel great.”
Fogel said scale matters when it comes to technology but warned that the flip side to that is added complexity which can slow things down.
“As you get bigger, that brings on complexity which could slow things down,” he said. “If scale was all that mattered Microsoft would dominate all of the internet.
“Often times you think what leads today is going to lead for ever but if you look back that’s not the way it goes. That’s why we are always trying to develop new things on the edge of the curve.
“If you just keep on doing the things that you’ve always been doing you won’t get ahead.”
Fogel said he sees technology making travel increasingly easy for customers and that would drive loyalty among the firms who can exploit that.
“No one likes to be treated as a part of a demographic, they want to be treated as an individual. Go back to travel agent of old who knew you and knew what you wanted and liked.
“Now we go on the web and the fact is many times it does not know what you want and you have to do all this filtering on your own.
“People want to be pointed in the right direction faster. They will come back to your brands because you are doing that better and you are making it easier for them.
“I know these things will be solved what I do not know is how long it will take. When I can just say what I want instead of having to type, speak in to a phone, that’s the trend that’s coming.”
Fogel said there is excitement around technologies like artificial intelligence that will sit behind the personalised and frictionless interfaces of the future.
“That’s what we want in all our activities, especially travel. Travel is better than it was 40 years ago, but we want it to be as easy as getting on a bus. Technology will help us get there.”
Fogel was asked about the brand strategy for Priceline which he has been central to having been responsible for the acquisitions of the likes of Active Hotels, Travel Jigsaw, KAYAK and booking.com.
He said many brands are left to run separately, although there is a lot of data and best practice sharing, while some others like Travelweb have been integrated.
However, he said time and effort spent integrating companies means resources are not being dedicated to something else which may be more important.
“When a company is growing very fast the question is always opportunity cost – which things should we do next?
“We could put one part of the company together with another but that’s going to slow down something else you want to do.
“You always want to direct resources at the things that give you greatest return. You could spend time consolidating back off stuff but that will cost you time you could be doing other things.”