Breaking Down the Travel Site Conglomerates

breaking down the travel site conglomerates_man booking travel on tabletIf you are even slightly into Internet call-out culture, you’ve probably read somebody’s horror story about their experience booking with Expedia and why you should also never use them again to book a flight or hotel. You read it while you were waiting for your friends to meet you at dinner and stored it in your brain somewhere between the latest Kardashian news and something about 401(k)s. You haven’t booked with Expedia since, which is easy enough because there are so many other travel sites to choose from, right? Well, we’ve got some bad news.

The majority of travel aggregator sites are owned by one of two companies: Expedia Group or Booking Holdings (the parent company of Booking.com). If you didn’t know that, don’t feel left out. Our research shows that most travelers don’t realize that Expedia Group and Booking Holdings are actually a duopoly. Don’t know what that means? We’ll explain…

First, a Quick Vocab Lesson

A duopoly simply means that two companies have dominant or exclusive control over a certain market. Think about smart phones as an example. Although there are some exceptions, Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android are the two dominating operating systems for smart phones these days.

For travel websites, the “market” is the travel aggregator market, and the two dominating companies are Expedia Group and Booking Holdings. Sites like these are called “aggregators” because they aggregate travel options from a number of suppliers for hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. Users of these sites can search across multiple hotels and multiple airlines in one place rather than going to each supplier’s website to compare options and prices.

Now, a Quick History Lesson

The first sites that built travel search this way became extremely attractive due to the convenience of being able to search everything in one place. They gained popularity with travelers, and the word soon spread that they were a great place to plan your travel. As the years went on, other sites popped up that did things a similar way, and the popularity of travel aggregators hit its peak.

Along the way, Expedia and Priceline—two competitors that were among the first of these types of sites—grew by acquiring other sites. One by one, they swallowed up the competition until only these two giants remained. In 2018, Priceline Group changed its name to Booking Holdings and now stands next to Expedia Group at the top of the travel site food chain.

So, Who Owns Who?

It’s been such a long and turbulent history that it’s easy to get confused by who owns who these days, but we’re here to help. Here are a few simple charts to help you visualize this massive duopoly.

Expedia Group Brands:

For a more thorough description of each brand, its services, and what Expedia doesn’t tell you, we thought this Skift article was helpful.

Booking Holdings Brands:

brands owned by booking holdings

What This Means for You

Competition is what keeps things fair for customers, so when one or two companies dominate an industry, competition decreases and customers are left without choices. Have you ever felt like some of those travel search sites seem the same? You’re not just imagining things. Take Orbitz and Travelocity as an example.

screenshots of orbitz.com and travelocity.com

Because they are owned by the same parent company—Expedia Group—their layouts look eerily similar. Even their search results are ordered the same. They list the same prices and use the same urgency messages to try to convince you to book sooner: “We have 3 left at $193” and “50% booked! Philadelphia is a popular location on your dates.” It’s clear to us that these two sites are simply two different masks that their parent company uses to capture as many customers as they can. You may think you’re shopping around, but really, you aren’t.

Feel betrayed? You’re not alone. The average traveler makes 38 visits to travel sites before booking a trip, all on the hunt to find the best deals. Unfortunately—as we’ve now learned—the majority of these travel sites are owned by one of two giant corporations. In reality, you’re not actually hunting for different prices because they all have the same price.

How We’re Different

First of all, Roomkey is not a part of this duopoly. We operate completely independently of them, and we like to do things differently. Earlier we mentioned how sites like those use urgency messaging as a way to coax you into booking your travel before you’re ready. This is an example of gimmicky marketing practices that travel sites use to boost their sales. Your pain becomes their gain, and we think this results in a confusing and unfair search experience for travelers.

When you search on roomkey.com, we give you just the facts you need, presented in a way that makes sense. No gimmicks, no runaround. Our no-nonsense search experience makes it easy to pick a hotel you won’t have to second guess. We show you real rates with real discounts, and we show you hotels that are best for you, not our bottom line.

The Best of Both Worlds

Roomkey is a simple hotel search site that is the best of both worlds. We recognize that people like the convenience of a combined search experience that the giant travel sites offer. No need to go to each and every hotel site to compare prices; we’ll do that for you. When you search on roomkey.com, we show you all of your hotel options in one place. We even allow you to compare discounted loyalty rates from all of our hotel partners (no other travel site can do that!).

When you’re ready to book, we take you directly to the hotel’s website. We’re not a middleman like the other travel sites. We don’t collect your booking ourselves at the risk that it might get lost in translation. We’ve said it before (and we’ll say it again), booking direct is the best way to secure your room, rate, and loyalty points too.

With Roomkey, you’ll get comprehensive hotel search that will show you transparent rates and accurate availability from all of our partner hotels. Select the hotel that best meets your needs, and then book directly with the hotel. This way, your choice and your trip is in your hands, not in the hands of some massive travel corporation.