For most, vacations are a rarity in life. Therefore, you need to make the most of every opportunity. Nothing is worse than a bad vacation. At least when you have a bad day at work, you can go home and sulk and/or vent in the comfort of your own home. When you're on vacation, the bad water that made you sick isn't going to suddenly change for the better, those bugs flying around the room and landing on your eyelids aren't going to halt their flight patterns while you sleep, and the rude person at the front counter isn't going to have a change of heart regarding how he feels about out-of-towners.
This isn't meant to scare you away from going on vacation. Everyone has a bad experience once in a while. But most vacations are successes. However, you need to maximize your odds of success. And that's where Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) comes in.
Three innovations to improve travel bookings
The innovations you're about to read about have the potential to improve travel-booking experiences for millions of people. If this comes to fruition, then it will lead to market-share gains and increased revenue for Expedia. Of course, this isn't a guarantee. It's way too early to tell if these innovations will be successful since they were just launched. But they are being written about because of their strong potential.
How many times have you searched for the right flight before finally booking something? If you're like the average traveler, it's 48 times. Wouldn't it be nice if all your previous searches would be automatically saved and retrievable at any time? This would save a lot of time. And wouldn't it be nice if you received emails about price changes for your saved searches, giving you an opportunity to take advantage of the best value? This is now possible with Expedia's Scratchpad.
If you're the type of person who books a flight the first time you sit down, wanting to get it out of the way so you can move on to other things, then you might appreciate Expedia's Flight Recommendations, which analyzes more than 3 billion flight searches performed by other people and applies the results to your search in regards to alternative airports, dates, and times. The goal is to find you the best value.
Itinerary Sharing is the third innovation. It pertains to having the option of sharing your travel itinerary with co-workers, friends, and/or family. Whoever you share the information with will have the ability to track departure times, arrivals, as well as delays.
Combined with Expedia's Best Price Guarantee, these innovative measures have the potential to lead to market-share gains. But if we're to go on actual results as opposed to potential, does Expedia appear to be the best investment option?
Priceline has outperformed its peers on the top line for several reasons. A bidding system where customers could name their own price was the original catalyst. Having William Shatner as the company's face didn't hurt, either. However, later growth stemmed from acquisitions, especially Booking.com, which turned Priceline from a domestic travel company to an international one.
Orbitz Worldwide has been trying to transition from a flight-booking travel site to a flight-and-hotel-booking travel site. Most consumers use the site for flight bookings, but Orbitz believes that its recent reward program, called Orbucks, could be a catalyst for increased consumer engagement, primarily because rewards are instantaneous.
The bottom line
Expedia's recent innovations related to big data could act as positive catalysts for stealing market share from Priceline and, to a lesser extent, Orbitz Worldwide. If you would prefer to go with the company that is currently the fastest growing in the industry, then you might want to consider Priceline. If you choose to invest in any of the companies mentioned here, please keep in mind that they're all highly dependent on consumer discretionary spending levels, which makes them sensitive to any economic downturns.