There's never been an easier time to travel
By Ashley Gardyne, Senior Portfolio Manager, International
07 June, 2017
If you've ever tried to travel with a group of friends, or like me with young children (heaven forbid!), you've probably realised the shortcomings of many hotels. Rooms that are too small for port-a-cots and prams and have no shared space to relax in — or if they do they can cost an arm and a leg. Thankfully, yet again, the internet has saved the day by providing a solution to this problem through online villa and apartment booking platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway (owner of NZ's Bookabach).
HomeAway owned by our portfolio company, Expedia, is a prominent example of the "sharing economy" in which people rent beds, cars and boats from each other through a mobile app. Finding a house to borrow for a holiday used to be more trouble than it was worth (particularly in a foreign location), but technology has made this much easier, and possible, on a much greater scale. But it's not just families with kids that are increasingly flocking to HomeAway for accommodation, recent data shows that over 30% of US travellers now stay in this type of alternative accommodation, up from less than 10% in 2010.
It is not just where we stay that is changing, the way we book our travel is also evolving and gradually moving online with about half of travel now being booked online rather than via offline travel agents like Flight Centre or by phone. This shift provides another leg of growth for Expedia as travellers embrace the more seamless booking experience and the broad choice of properties on its platforms (Expedia, HomeAway, Hotels.com, Wotif.com and Trivago).
These changes aren't good for everyone however, and hotel chains are coming under increasing pressure from these trends. Travellers used to book at chain hotels like the Hilton or Holiday Inn because they knew the level of service they were going to get. When you can review hotel photos, amenities and maps online, and read countless user generated reviews, the value and appeal of a hotel's brand is reduced.
Humans will always prefer having more choice and flexibility than less. Regardless of how the sharing economy and online shift impacts hotel chains and high street travel agents, we believe the level of choice that Expedia provides customers positions them well to benefit from a growing travel market. Expedia's revenue model of clipping the ticket on every night booked by travellers, combined with strong growth drivers and a business that requires limited fixed assets (they manage websites, not properties) creates what we believe is a compelling investment opportunity.