It is now all over the news: Expedia has reached a deal to buy Orbitz in a billion dollar transaction, consolidating as a giant what already is the biggest online travel business.
Months ago Expedia acquired another of the players: Travelocity. After this new transaction there will be very few actors in the theater of online travel.
One may wonder how the last affirmation is even possible since it is not hard to find dozens of apparently different travel websites. The truth is that most of them, even with different names such as Hotwire and hotels.com, they belong to the same corporation: Expedia. Even travel websites that present themselves as a tool to compare fares offered on the web such as Trivago belong as well to Expedia.
We have been using Expedia for our personal trips for years, most of our experiences have been quite positive, even from the time when Orbitz and Travelocity where bigger players, we loved the customer oriented attitude of Expedia. Things have changed some for good others not for the good.
Bigger does not always means better. It is important to acknowledge that at first glance a big company such as Expedia is able to negotiate better rates from travel providers, their customer service can be better and one is protected when traveling by a name of a giant that in some way is like a powerful Father watching over his children. Does this always translate as something really better for travelers? Not always.
Experience has taught us that competition is healthy for the market. We have seen this with airlines particularly in destinations such as the USA, where prices are super high, service quite limited, and friendliness something that has been forgotten long ago among many working in those giant companies.
We have seen something similar in other geographical areas such as Central America, where several -actually many- countries are served by two good airlines, but there good service comes with super high prices, where for example a ticket from San Jose Costa Rica to Panama can cost 600 USD in economy, but it is a flight of 50 minutes.
The fact of being a giant can actually intimidate other travel actors -hotels, airlines, travel providers- whose focus at the end may not really be the customer but the giant -no one wants to be excluded from the biggest online travel business or do they?
If there is not enough competition why to bother to offer a better service? That is a basic principle. We hope that with this acquisition it will be the opposite -only time will tell us what will really happen-
With just one actor it is even harder for small startups with less bureaucracy and more customer oriented service to pop up. How can one fight against such a lone force?
Time will show us if Expedia becoming just another super corporation have been a good move, in the meantime we will continue traveling, always looking around for the best value, learning from our past travels and trying to inspire others to go and see the world.