Consumers respond well to naming their own price as online travel agency Priceline surges 8% to grab the lead in the tightly grouped Internet travel service industry. While there has been considerable consolidation among online booking sites, many continue to operate as separate brands. With an ACSI score of 81, Priceline tops the three big names under the Expedia umbrella despite smaller gains for Expedia-owned Travelocity (+4% to 78) and Orbitz (+3% to 77). Nearly lockstep with its other major brands, Expedia’s namesake booking site holds steady at 77.
Smaller websites, grouped together as “all others,” tend to place at or near the top of the Internet travel industry, which makes Priceline’s ascendency in 2016 noteworthy. Nevertheless, the range of scores among all travel sites is typically quite narrow and the industry overall suffers from lack of differentiation. This year, the aggregate of smaller websites straddles the Expedia-Priceline divide with a score of 79 (+1%), perhaps reflecting the group’s conglomeration of brands that include Expedia’s Hotels.com and Priceline’s KAYAK.com and Booking.com.
The real competition for online travel agencies may well be the websites of hotels and airlines. According to 2016 ACSI data, hotels offer a better online experience than Internet travel agencies. Airline websites, meanwhile, are going head-to-head with Internet travel sites, matching the online industry’s overall customer satisfaction level.
Both airlines and hotels are working harder than ever to boost loyalty and encourage direct booking. While online sites bring customers to these industries, the commissions they charge reduce net revenue per customer. Given the strong website satisfaction scores for both hotels and airlines, the convenience of one-stop shopping alone via online travel sites may not be enough to keep customers away from direct booking.