National Report – Expedia’s 2014 Partner Conference began December 10 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas with a reflection on the travel industry as a whole, which has grown to $1.3 trillion globally in traveler spend, $334 billion of which is in the U.S. Europe represents the largest chunk ($537 billion), while the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions continue to grow—$365 billion and $92 billion, respectively.
A big reason for the industry’s U.S. growth is the rise in international arrivals, which are projected to increase from 74 million travelers in 2014 to 77 million in 2015. According to Expedia’s data, China alone delivered 1.8 million outbound visitors to the U.S., with an average spend of $11,700 per visitor.
Expedia made a big push to capture the mobile market in 2014. According to the company’s data, the average smartphone now costs around $63. As of 2013, two billion mobile Expedia subscribers were active in China and India, 650 percent more than in the U.S.
“At Hotels.com, we are already seeing customers shifting to mobile, with more than one in four transactions booked through a mobile device,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia.
By acknowledging these users and improving Expedia’s mobile performance, the company increased its downloads by 250 percent year over year, while its app share rate rose 350 percent year over year. “We build products around our hotel partners, to simplify their everyday life, increase their competitiveness and grow their business,” said Benoit Jolin, Expedia’s head of global supplier experience.
Expedia spent $650 million on technology and $2.6 billion on marketing over the last year. This technology spend resulted in the release of the new Expedia tablet app, which launched in September. Since its release, the app’s page views have increased 40 percent per visit, while the return rate for customers rose 20 percent. “To stay innovative, relevant and nimble, investment in technology and intelligence is required,” Khosrowshahi said.
Mark Okerstrom, CFO and EVP of operations for Expedia, presented the company’s e-commerce outlook through 2018, predicting strong numbers. “E-commerce globally will double in the next five years,” Okerstrom said, with business to customer e-commerce sales worldwide projected to rise from 1.2 trillion in 2012 to 2.4 trillion in 2018.
In 2014, Expedia also catalogued 5 billion air searches, as well as 300,000 origin and destination pairs. Greg Schulze, senior travel executive at Expedia, noted that these increased searches are a result of optimized search processes, which allow travelers to better find the flights they want with the prices that fit them.
“We are seeing customers pay closer attention to features such as baggage inclusion, seat selection and changeability as critical variables,” Schulze said.