Expedia's new Points of Interest tool turns hotels into destination experts

After Expedia unveiled its Guest Review Insights tool in March, HOTEL MANAGEMENT surmised the company had an arsenal of forthcoming products for Expedia Lodging Partners. Now, we can confirm.

Today, the travel tech giant launched Points of Interest, another new tool that provides hotels the opportunity to spotlight the inimitability of their location.

Better Customer Service 

Hotel partners have long expressed a desire to exert some measure of influence over how destination information is presented to Expedia customers, particularly in how it’s associated with their individual property, Benoit Jolin, VP of global product development, said. “The rationale is that no one is better positioned than our hotel partners to be true destination ambassadors,” he added. “They’re perfectly poised to tell travelers about the destination and the points of interest around their property and in the past.”

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Jolin isn’t just doling out hyperbole to the approximate 300,000 lodging partners worldwide who have access to the tool. He pointed out that destination content information can become perishable over time, as some venues may no longer be relevant to a hotel’s guests or may revamp their product or simply cease operations. “If we can tap into local knowledge—our partner base—we’re going to have more impactful Points of Interest on the site,” he said.

Custom Content

The customizable list of up to 10 nearby attractions, activities and experiences is another facet of differentiation for hotels. It also recognizes—or bets—that consumers prioritize location over hotel amenities—and for business travelers, location is a fundamental aspect to determining where to stay. According to a December 2016 white paper "Where They Go, Why They Stay", by New York City-based brand engagement firm Sullivan, “respondents continually ranked hotel amenities low on a list of priorities when booking, yet many hotel communications highlight those over location.”

But Points of Interest gives hotels the power to format a list of area locales based on the property’s target demographic and then allows the property to further curate its chosen highlights with unique photos and advice for each suggested venue. Complete with a map that pins each site in relation to the hotel’s location, Points of Interest is housed directly on the hotel’s page, improving the shopping experience for Expedia consumers in what Jolin called “a streamlined low-friction, low-cognitive-load view” in order to quickly view what the destination or neighborhood offers.

“We wanted to create a better experience for both hotel partners and Expedia consumers, augmenting their trip planning and research phase to make it easier for travelers to get a good sense of where they’ll be staying and to make a well-informed trip planning decision,” said Jolin.

Expedia Lodging Partners should expect to benefit from a greater share of bookings since the new tool will build upon hotel information by showcasing what’s in its environs. “Together, that can be a conversion driver for hotels and if it enables them to capture more business and gives consumers a better experience, it’s a win-win,” Jolin noted.

Already, some hotels are taking advantage of the new tool, including the Inn at the Market in Seattle, which wants to emphasize the fact that it is the only hotel in the city’s iconic Pike Place Market.

Still to Come

But as with all of the new tools added to Expedia Partner Central (EPC), this is only the first iteration of Points of Interest. It will soon roll out on EPC’s mobile app and after determining how often hotels interact with the new tool, how often they change or add content and how many changes they make, as well as how consumers interact with the content—points that inform future investments and further development—it may eventually increase the number of Points of Interest from 10.

Additional sources of media assets could potentially be added as well, as Expedia continues to explore how to integrate video content into the consumer experience. “We’re constantly testing ways to support richer content and more diversified content sources beyond text and images,” Jolin said. “We might explore link offs down the line, but for now we want to have ownership, manage and optimize the content displayed on our sites, but over time we could explore different content experiences for our travelers and different formats.”

He also mentioned that CDO, or Collaboration Data Objects, a technology for building messaging apps, is also on Expedia’s radar “to make sure we’re staying current with the trends and providing travelers with all the information that they need to make informed trip planning decisions.”

Not surprising, another new tool focused on more direct communications between hotels and Expedia customers is likely in the make.