Hard to believe? Most would expect the leading online travel
agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia (
) and Priceline (
) to rejoice due to improving demand for both business and leisure
travel following the horrific downturn in 2007-09. However as major
hotel groups beef up their own online sales channels and rely less
on OTAs due to a better aggregate demand, these trends could spell
trouble ahead for the most popular OTAs.
We value Expedia with a
$30.60 Trefis price estimate of its stock
, which is slightly below its current market price; and
Priceline's stock at $50,
which is a 5% discount to its current trading price.
Hotel Chains Becoming Less Reliant on OTAs
With increase in travel demand, hotel chains are no longer as
desperate to liquidate their inventory of hotel night stays through
online travel agencies by offering highly discounted rates. At the
same time they are beefing up their own direct sales network which
is attracting users to the hotel sites directly.
Since the hotel chains can sell more hotel stays themselves and
rely less on OTAs to fill up spare inventory, fewer hotel nights
are available for bookings through online travel agencies. If this
leads to reduced number of hotel bookings translates for OTAs this
will hurt commission revenues.
For instance Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and other chains
provided online travel agencies only 9.1% of their inventory in the
first quarter of this fiscal year, down 14% from the same period in
the recessionary 2009. This shift among major hotel groups could
put a dent in OTAs inventories giving customers fewer choices.
Also online travel agencies attract traffic due to deep
discounts users expect to find on the OTAs. While the average rate
found on online travel portal was almost 22% cheaper than that
available at hotel chain websites over January-March 2011, these
discounts will decrease for major hotel groups as the travel
industry improves. This provides less incentive to book via OTAs,
which are generally less flexible and require up front payments vs.
booking directly with hotels.
How does this impact Expedia & Priceline
All of this spells trouble for OTAs and could help explain the
spate of recent alliances these companies are pursuing with
Expedia's Partnership with Travel Agents Adds New Leg of Growth
For Priceline's stock is much more sensitive to hotel bookings,
which make up almost 92% of its stock compared to Expedia where
hotel bookings account for only 56% of the stock.
Drag the graph below to see the impact on Priceline's stock
See our $30.60 Trefis price estimate of Expedia's stock |
$506 Trefis price estimate of Priceline's