Expedia Partner Conference 2017: ‘We’ll put the O back in OTA’, says new Expedia boss

Expedia Partner Conference 2017: ‘We’ll put the O back in OTA’, says new Expedia boss

Expedia will strive to put the ‘O’ back into OTA new Expedia boss Mark Okerstrom told the global travel giant’s annual partner conference in Las Vagas this week.

Okerstrom, formerly Expedia’s chief financial officer, took over from Dara Khosrowshahi three months ago after he unexpectedly quit to become the chief executive of Uber.

The new Expedia president and chief executive indicated no great departure from the strategy pursued by his predecessor except to speed up the pace of innovation and deepen partnerships with hoteliers and other product suppliers.

“In the race of man versus machine, so far man has won. In the future we think the machine can win. We want to put the O back in OTA,” Okerstrom said.

He said the first 20 years of online was travel about taking the old travel agency GDS green screen and putting it onto consumer devices, but he said the travel agent of yesteryear used to do a lot more than the OTA of today.

Okerstrom said Expedia intends to change that, pointing to the possibility that some of the services its corporate travel arm Egencia currently offers customers, like automatically rebooking flights if they are delayed, being adapted for leisure customers.

Expedia will also use some of its $1.3 billion annual technology budget to invest in areas like voice, artificial intelligence, to push the boundaries of personalisation, and emerging technologies like blockchain.

But Okerstrom said it won’t be doing this in isolation, it will be working more closely with partners to build the technologies they say they need.

“What you are going to see from us is an extension of what we have been doing all along,” Okerstrom told the audience of over 4,000 partners.

“What we want to do is actually do it faster. We want to accelerate our global push, we want to be consumer centric. We want to accelerate the speed of innovation internally.

“We are at the very early stages of digital innovation in travel and we are better when we innovate together.”

Okerstrom suggested Expedia’s global roll out is now almost complete and the challenge today is to operate on a local level in all the markets in which it has a presence.

“We are almost done expanding our borders. We have a few more flags to plant but the land grab for being present across the world we have largely completed.

“Now it’s time to be relevant in any markets we choose to be…so it feels like you are working with a local travel agency, being locally relevant on a global basis.

“We want to be the number one or number two choice in any markets round the world. We want to give you the choice to work with the market leader anywhere.”

Okerstrom said Expedia wants to be more customer centric, but that will only come by closer collaboration with its partners.

“This is no longer about online travel agents innovating over here and talking to partners over there this is more and more about innovating in partnership.

“We have an incredible opportunity to make us all better off through partnership and joint innovation. If we can deliver on that together, and I’m convinced we can, we going to achieve joint success.

“The theme of the conference is we are better together and we absolutely believe that to be true. The combination of you with is unstoppable and we can’t wait to take that journey with you.”

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