Impala CEO Ben Stephenson: Is Peter Kern’s Expedia Group really so different that it can build an ‘open world’ of distribution?
- Impala CEO Ben Stephenson reflects on Expedia Group's 'Open World' announcement in an open letter
There’s not a hotelier or room seller in the world that isn’t aware of Expedia Group - and doesn’t feel the impact of its presence. Whether it’s costly commissions, the mystery of the algorithms that power its search results, or hoovering up demand through aggressive paid search advertising, there’s no doubting Expedia Group’s power over the industry.
That’s why I followed with intrigue when Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern took to the stage at their annual conference last month, announcing - among other things - a new suite of products called ‘Open World’, which he claims “opens all [their] innovation to the world”. You can see a recap on his LinkedIn post.
Expedia’s stifling history
But if Expedia’s track record is anything to go by, this new tech stack will be anything but ‘Open’. For years now, Expedia has been building bigger walls between hotels and room sellers, tightly controlling hotel and room seller earnings, and perpetuating an infrastructure that requires all business to go through them - at enormous cost - rather than allowing hotels and room sellers to do business freely and affordably with each other.
We, and other players, are pioneering a new approach to the infrastructure that powers our industry, called Open Distribution
We, and other players like Katanox, are pioneering a new approach to the infrastructure that powers our industry, called Open Distribution. It’s ‘Open’ because any hotel or room seller can participate. They have complete transparency to decide who they work with and what’s best for them. And they can negotiate with each other to set their commercial terms.
Looking out for number one
It’s true that Expedia may have changed its spots. But the title of Kern’s article, “What’s next for Expedia Group”, suggests it hasn’t. I started Impala to build a new infrastructure for the whole travel industry that does away with the stifling frustrations we all experience today. If ‘Open World’ really will offer “unprecedented reach and success” to everyone who uses it, we’ll need to see some very significant changes in the company’s underlying business model.
For infrastructure to be described as ‘Open’, it should be easily available to anyone, offer greater transparency, and allow its users flexibility and control over how to operate their business
For infrastructure to be described as ‘Open’, it should be easily available to anyone, offer greater transparency, and allow its users flexibility and control over how to operate their business. And it should come at a sensible cost that enables you, rather than choking you. We’ve built this infrastructure for hotel distribution - and the industry finally has a real alternative to the status quo, where a small number of players collect an enormous share of the industry’s earnings.
Hotels and room sellers are signing up for Open Distribution at a record pace. The beautiful thing about our approach is that it really is open. It’s free to get started as a hotel or room seller, and onboarding is incredibly easy. Hotels and room sellers set commercial terms with each other, and you only pay Impala a small fee when you get a booking. That means you can try it out risk-free and run it alongside your existing setup.
Focusing on growing your business without having to worry about being stalled by the booking giants’ next moves? Now that’s an open world.
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