The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - The Origins of the Online Hotel Booking Titans
The internet has revolutionized the way we research, plan, and book travel. In the early days of online booking, sites like Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline made it easier for travelers to compare airfares side-by-side and book flights without picking up the phone. But it didn’t take long for these trailblazers to expand into the accommodations space as well.
Expedia was the first mover in this realm, acquiring a majority stake in Hotels.com back in 2000. This allowed the company to aggregate rates and availability from hotels around the world onto a single platform. No longer did travelers have to visit individual hotel websites or rely on offline travel agencies to book rooms. Expedia began disrupting the industry.
Not one to be left behind, Priceline entered the fray in 2004 by acquiring Booking.com. Originally started in 1996 as Bookings.nl, a small Dutch company, Booking.com initially focused solely on the European market. But with Priceline's investment and support, the site was able to expand globally and pose a real challenge to Expedia's dominance.
By 2008, Priceline decided to focus its business entirely on the online travel agency model, spinning off brands like Active Hotels and Travelweb from its portfolio. Booking.com became its star player.
Agoda emerged a few years later in the mid-2000s as an Asia-focused online booking site under its parent company Priceline. It slowly spread beyond Asia Pacific and grew in popularity with travelers looking for competitive rates at hotels in cities across the globe.
Fast forward to today, and this trio of online booking giants dominates the $200 billion hotel reservations industry. Expedia currently owns Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapTickets, Vrbo, and more, giving it the widest portfolio of brands under its umbrella. But Booking.com remains the leader in worldwide room nights booked, commanding a strong loyalty among frequent travelers. And Agoda has carved out a niche in Asia and beyond as an easy way to find hotel deals and reduce the stress of travel planning.
What else is in this post?
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - The Origins of the Online Hotel Booking Titans
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Comparing Hotel Inventories and Rates
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Loyalty Programs and Rewards to Lure Travelers
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Battling for Market Share Around the Globe
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - User Experience and Interface Differences
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Partnerships with Airlines, Credit Cards and More
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Innovations in Mobile Apps and Voice Technology
- The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - The Future of Online Hotel Booking - What's Next?
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Comparing Hotel Inventories and Rates
One of the most important factors for travelers when choosing an online booking site is the inventory of hotels available. Having access to the widest selection of properties and room types ensures you can find the perfect accommodation for your needs and budget. Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda take varying approaches when it comes to building out their hotel inventories.
Expedia leans heavily on its network of brand sites to aggregate listings. Properties that sign up to be on Hotels.com or Orbitz also appear on Expedia.com and the other sites in the portfolio. This gives Expedia the largest overall inventory with around 500,000 hotels available to book. The properties range from major chains to small independent hotels and B&Bs, though availability can vary by region. Typically Expedia has the most robust selection of hotels in the Americas.
Booking.com takes a more decentralized, property-by-property approach to building inventory. They have staff worldwide who establish direct partnerships with hotels and upload real-time rates and availability specific to Booking.com. This can result in pricing and room options that may not be available on the hotel's website or other OTAs. Right now Booking.com lists over 1.8 million properties across 220 countries. But the availability is skewed towards Europe where Booking.com got its start.
Agoda has around 2.1 million properties listed on its site, though only about half a million are directly contracted. They rely on partnerships with other OTAs and aggregators to supplement their inventory. And the bulk of their hotel listings are concentrated in Asia Pacific where Agoda first gained traction. This makes Agoda an excellent option for finding deals in that region, but less robust for other parts of the world.
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Loyalty Programs and Rewards to Lure Travelers
Loyalty programs have become a key battleground for Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda as they vie for market share. Offering travelers incentives to book repeatedly on their sites provides a major edge. The approach each company takes to structuring programs and the rewards offered creates distinct value propositions.
For Expedia, its Rewards program allows members to earn points on bookings across its entire portfolio of brands. Points can then be redeemed for discounts on future Expedia purchases. There are also member-only deals and perks like room upgrades and airline lounge passes available as you reach higher tiers. The ability to earn and redeem across all Expedia sites is a huge advantage for frequent travelers.
Booking.com has only recently jumped into the loyalty game with its Genius program launching in 2019. It offers tiers and points just like competitors. But what makes Genius unique is it provides additional discounts and perks during your actual hotel stays, not just savings on future bookings. We're talking room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in, and other on-property amenities. For those loyal to Booking.com, these stay benefits can be game-changing.
Agoda also rewards loyal customers through its Rewards program. But instead of points or tiers, you earn money credits on each booking that can be applied to reduce the cost of future reservations. Credits scale up based on how much you spend. There are additional perks too like bonus credits, special member sales, and a dedicated customer support team. The cashback model is appealing for a lot of travelers and incentivizes repeat bookings.
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Battling for Market Share Around the Globe
The global travel market is estimated to be over $1.7 trillion, and Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda all want their piece of the pie. With travelers scouring the internet to find the best flight deals and hotel rates for their next vacation or business trip, these online booking giants are in an intense battle for market share across the world.
In the United States, Expedia has long dominated with around 50% market share. Its brand recognition and variety of booking sites appeal to American travelers looking to compare options for hotels, flights, rental cars and more in one place. Booking.com comes in second at just over 30% share, popular for its expansive hotel inventory. Agoda has less than 5% of the U.S. market, though it aims to gain ground with competitive pricing.
Europe is more hotly contested thanks to Booking.com’s roots in the region. It holds over 60% market share in major countries like France, Italy and Spain. Expedia trails at under 20% share, struggling to shake Booking’s reputation for better rates and availability at small charming hotels. Agoda barely registers on the radar in Europe – less than 1% of bookings.
The tables turn in the Asia Pacific region where Agoda dominates with 40%+ market share in most countries. It’s most popular in Southeast Asia, but also leads in Australia, South Korea, Japan and beyond. The site’s local knowledge helps it undercut bigger players on hotel pricing. Expedia takes 35% share mainly from Australian travelers. Booking lags at 20% share in Asia, though its investments in the region aim to eat into Agoda’s lead.
South America, the Middle East and Africa are less saturated markets with no single dominant player yet. Expedia and Booking split the market with 40% share each in Africa. Booking edges out Expedia 37% to 34% in South America, with locally-based sites holding significant share too. And the Middle East is nearly evenly split between the top three OTAs. Though upstarts like local platform Wego are disrupting with metasearch models.
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - User Experience and Interface Differences
When it comes to user experience, these three booking giants take varied approaches that appeal to different types of travelers. Expedia offers a full-service experience across its family of brands, while Booking.com prides itself on an easy, straightforward booking process. Agoda focuses on catering to Asian markets. The look, feel and functionality of the sites can sway travelers to choose one over the others.
Expedia provides a rich, comprehensive experience with extensive filtering options to refine your hotel search. Travelers can narrow results by neighborhood, landmark, hotel class, brand, and more. Interactive maps make it easy to visualize locations. And the ability to bundle flights, cars, activities and more into a package caters to those who want full trip planning on one site. However, the sheer amount of content and ads on Expedia pages can feel overwhelming compared to the more streamlined interfaces of competitors.
Booking.com impresses users with its clean, minimalist design that surfaces hotel photos prominently. Filters are still robust but presented in a simpler way than Expedia. The focus is on making the room selection and booking process as easy as possible. Travelers can sort exactly how they want, whether by price, star rating, free cancellation eligibility, and more. No distracting ads or excessive content clutters the interface. For many travelers, Booking.com strikes the perfect balance of options to find the ideal hotel without too many bells and whistles.
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Partnerships with Airlines, Credit Cards and More
Strategic partnerships with airlines, hotel chains, credit card companies and more have also emerged as key competitive advantages for our booking titans. These partnerships allow sites to enhance the value they provide travelers through integrated loyalty programs, points transfers, special discounts and other perks that make booking through them more rewarding.
For example, Expedia has a deep partnership with United Airlines centered around its rewards program. Expedia Rewards members can directly transfer points to United’s MileagePlus program to redeem for United flights. United is also woven into the Expedia Rewards VIP Access loyalty tier which unlocks perks like priority airport services when flying United. These close ties incentivize Expedia users who fly United frequently to book through Expedia to get the most value from their airfare and hotel dollars.
Booking.com has teamed up with several hotel chains to offer Genius rewards members exclusive discounts, complimentary breakfast and room upgrades when staying at properties of partner brands. Partners so far include Marriott, Caesars Entertainment, Pendry Hotels & Resorts and SBE, with more likely on the way. These benefits encourage loyal guests of those hotel chains to book through Booking.com.
And Agoda has deepened its relationship with airlines like Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and more to enhance offerings for its Rewards members. This includes letting customers use rewards cash credits to help pay for flights on partner carriers when booked through Agoda. Plus integrated points earning and transfers between airline programs and Agoda Rewards. The seamless combination of flight and hotel bookings and rewards is a boon for Asia-based travelers who frequently use these airline partners.
Partnerships with major credit card companies like American Express, Chase and Citi have also allowed the booking giants to amplify their rewards potential. Credit card bonuses and statement credits when using co-branded cards with Expedia, Booking.com or Agoda give travelers even more ways to be rewarded and reduce their overall vacation spending when staying loyal to a particular booking site.
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - Innovations in Mobile Apps and Voice Technology
The smartphone revolution has forced online travel giants to evolve how they interact with travelers who are increasingly booking flights, hotels and more on the go using apps. Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda have all invested heavily in mobile technology to allow users to plan and book trips seamlessly while in transit or during tiny snatches of downtime.
Expedia boasts the most downloaded travel app with over 100 million installs to date. It condenses the full functionality of Expedia.com into an intuitive mobile experience. Travelers can browse destinations, hotels and bundled package deals as well as complete bookings. Recent upgrades include travel guides powered by AI and expedited checkouts. However, some users complain the app can still feel cluttered.
Booking.com receives high marks for its slick mobile app that brings the clean aesthetics of the website to a compact interface. Everything is designed for nimble searching and booking on the smallest screens. Recent app enhancements include easy multi-stop trip planning tools as well as increased personalization with suggested destinations based on past bookings and searches.
Though smaller, Agoda also wins praise for its mobile-centric DNA. Features like email boarding passes, multi-currency support and mobile-exclusive deals cater to its Asia-based clientele. The EXP features uses machine learning to recommend hotels and areas that match your specific preferences. Agoda also offers easy mobile payments via popular Asian services like Paytm, GrabPay or Kakao Pay.
Beyond apps, voice technology is emerging as the next frontier for travel booking. All three sites have partnered with voice assistants to allow users to search, book and manage trips via voice commands with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple's Siri.
Expedia enables dateless searches like "find me a hotel in Miami next month" as well as conversational interactions like "show me the best deals". Alexa guides users through the entire booking transaction hands-free.
Agoda has the most basic voice functionality currently. But its integration with popular Asian assistants like Xiaomi's XiaoAI positions it well to lead voice travel booking in its key markets when the technology matures.
The Battle of the Hotel Booking Giants: Expedia vs. Booking.com vs. Agoda - The Future of Online Hotel Booking - What's Next?
The future of online hotel booking promises to be defined by further personalization, integration and innovation. As travelers come to expect seamless, individualized experiences, Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda will need to leverage technology like artificial intelligence and augmented reality to take their platforms to the next level.
Look for online travel giants to harness AI-driven recommendations to precisely tailor suggestions to each customer based on past bookings, browsing behavior, identified preferences and real-time trip details. Instead of generic popular destinations, sites will showcase personalized favorites – that boutique Amsterdam hotel you loved or beach resorts matching your budget. Voice assistants will converse naturally to refine picks. Sites are experimenting with AI to optimize every aspect of the booking journey.
Integrating loyalty programs, credit cards and travel partners into unified platforms will also be critical. Imagine booking a flight on United, hotel on Booking.com and rental car on Expedia, then having all the reservations, itineraries and rewards seamlessly synced in a single trip dashboard. Reducing friction when booking across providers will help sites provide complete trip management.
And we’ll see online travel agencies collaborate with venues on immersive augmented reality experiences. Imagine “walking” through a hotel and grounds remotely via an app to preview the property before you book. The same tech can enhance navigation once on site. Venues will also improve smart room controls and service via mobile apps to please increasingly tech-savvy travelers.
While price comparison remains the top priority for many travelers, stress-free booking experiences, personalized recommendations, high-tech enhancements and integrated rewards will dictate customer loyalty going forward. Agility in product development and strategic tech and business partnerships will separate the winners going forward in the increasingly competitive online booking space as travelers’ expectations continue to evolve. Companies failing to innovate risk losing customers to disruptive upstarts.