Expedia, Marriott team up to sell hotel packages direct

(Vacations by Marriott)

Hotels and online travel agencies have long had a complicated relationship, and a new agreement has added another wrinkle to the sometimes uneasy association. 

Expedia announced that it is powering hotel and flight vacation packages for Vacations by Marriott. Expedia provides the technology, flights, ground transportation, tours and activities while Marriott provides its own hotels.

This is Expedia’s first such deal with a hotel. The agreement is one used by the Expedia Affiliate Network, which is often used by third parties needing a flight or hotel product element added to their existing website.

"We believe there is considerable untapped opportunity between our two companies to drive value to hotel owners and travelers alike by strengthening our Vacations by Marriott's offering," said Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International.

The partnership is interesting given that Marriott International introduced Marriott Rewards Member Rates earlier this year for members who book directly through Marriott’s direct channels. The program is an attempt to weaken the reach of online travel agencies, such as Expedia.

The hotel chain embarked on a campaign titled #ItPaysToBookDirect to encourage travelers to search and reserve their stays at a Marriott property on the home website. Consumers are being offered a 25-percent discount if they find a cheaper rate elsewhere on the web. The campaign drew criticism but it now seems Marriott is now working with the very OTAs it was fighting against.

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company is evolving how it thinks about its business, especially how it thinks about and works with its partners. “Our investments in technology, marketing and data analysis help us to better serve partners and travelers around the world, and enable us to move our value beyond distribution, for the benefit of our partners,” Khosrowshahi said.

The deal for Expedia to power Vacations by Marriott follows Expedia’s recent agreement to access Red Lion’s member-only rates and to auto-enroll Expedia and Hotels.com customers booking Red Lion hotels into the chain’s Hello Rewards loyalty program.