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The Duopoly Dominance:

How Expedia and Booking.com Control the Travel Industry

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When it comes to planning a trip, whether it's a weekend getaway or an international adventure, many of us turn to online travel agencies (OTAs) and booking websites to simplify the process. In recent years, two giants have emerged as the uncontested rulers of this domain: Expedia and Booking.com. More precisely, Expedia Group and Booking Holdings.

This article explores how these industry behemoths have come to dominate the travel landscape, shaping the way we plan our journeys and raising questions about competition and choice within the industry.

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The Rise of Expedia and Booking.com

Expedia and Booking.com didn't start out as the dominant players they are today. They grew through a series of strategic acquisitions, partnerships, and technological innovations.

Expedia, initially a division of Microsoft, was spun off in 1999 and went on to acquire several key players in the travel industry, including Orbitz, Travelocity, and HomeAway.

Booking.com, founded in 1996, also expanded aggressively, acquiring companies like Priceline and Kayak, all while developing a massive network of hotels, vacation rentals, and other travel-related services.

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The Duopoly's Control

Expedia Group and Booking Holdings influence is undeniable, and their dominance is far-reaching, with a profound impact on how we plan and book our travels. From their commanding market share to their unwavering brand recognition, these travel giants have rewritten the rules of the game. But what exactly makes the duopoly of Expedia Group and Booking Holdings so powerful? Let's get into their control, exploring the key factors that have cemented their positions as the unrivaled titans of online travel.

Market Share: One of the most apparent signs of Expedia and Booking.com's dominance is their sheer market share. These two juggernauts collectively control a substantial portion of the global online travel market. Expedia Group, which includes brands like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity; and Booking Holdings, the parent company of Booking.com, Priceline, and Kayak; account for about 60 percent of all travel bookings in the U.S. and Europe.

Brand Recognition: Expedia and Booking.com have established themselves as household names. Their aggressive marketing strategies, including television advertisements, online campaigns, and partnerships with airlines and hotels, have solidified their brand recognition. When many people think of booking a hotel or flight, these two names come to mind first.

Technology and User Experience: Both companies invest heavily in technology and user experience, making their websites and mobile apps user-friendly and feature-rich. From predictive search to personalized recommendations, they leverage cutting-edge technology to enhance the booking process, making it convenient and efficient for travelers.

Inventory: Expedia and Booking.com have vast inventories of accommodation options, including hotels, vacation rentals, hostels, and more. They also offer a wide range of travel-related services, such as car rentals, tours, and activities. This comprehensive inventory ensures that travelers can find almost anything they need on their platforms.

The Implications

While the dominance of Expedia and Booking.com has led to some benefits, such as convenience and "competitive" pricing, it has also raised several concerns within the travel industry and among consumers:

Limited Competition: The duopoly's dominance has limited competition within the online travel agency market. Smaller players struggle to compete with their marketing budgets, which further consolidates power in the hands of the two giants.

Price Control: Expedia and Booking.com's dominance influences all pricing in the industry. Hotels and other travel providers may be forced to offer deals on these platforms to remain competitive, potentially leading to price pressure on smaller, independent businesses.

Commission Fees: The duopoly's significant market share allows them to charge high commission fees to hotels and other accommodations listed on their platforms. This can put financial strain on smaller establishments.

Data Monopoly: The vast amount of data collected by Expedia and Booking.com gives them a significant advantage in understanding traveler behavior and trends. This data monopoly can stifle competition and innovation in the industry.

Alternative booking platforms

While giants like Booking Holdings and Expedia Group have long dominated the travel industry, there exists a vibrant ecosystem of alternative booking platforms that offer unique advantages and experiences. World Ventures was a good example of this. It was founded in 2005 and was one of the first successful travel companies that started to break the mold of traditional travel booking platforms. They emerged as one of the most prominent communities when it came to global travel. Unfortunately, when trying to create a momentous push to expand into a greater portion of the duopoly controlled market share - they made some costly mistakes to which they couldn't recover from. They were forced to file for bankruptcy in 2020. Events like this are not uncommon and speaks to the continuing dominance of power from Expedia Group and Booking Holdings.

These platforms, unencumbered by the duopoly's shadow, provide travelers with diverse choices, personalized services, and innovative solutions for their journeys. In this exploration of the alternatives, we unveil a world of travel possibilities beyond the well-trodden paths of the two behemoths. Discover the richness and diversity of booking platforms that cater to every wanderer's desire. Whether you seek distinctive accommodations, budget-friendly flights, hidden gems off the beaten path, or a community of like minded travelers; this journey through the realm of independent booking platforms promises to open new doors to travel dreams.

Travorium: This Travel Club can show almost anyone on any budget how they can immediately start realizing more community and travel out of life. They are disrupting the single largest industry in the world and challenge the “huge markup model” being run by the monolithic companies who currently control the space today. Most people who visit popular travel retail sites have NO IDEA how much they are overpaying. Travorium is here to show people a better way to experience more community and travel out of life.

AirBnB: It all started when two Hosts welcomed three guests to their San Francisco home, and has since grown to over 4 million Hosts who have welcomed over 1.5 billion guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe.

Hopper: An accredited travel agency. they partner with airlines, hotels, homes, and car rental providers across the globe so you can feel confident you’re booking the perfect vacation at the best price they can find.

Hostelworld: The leading online travel agent (OTA) focused on the hostel market. They help inspiring adventurous minds to experience new places, meet new people and come back with extraordinary stories to tell.

Skyscanner: They pride theirselves on being transparent and unbiased, searching billions of prices for flights, hotels and car rentals to help find you the best deals they can.

Our Conclusion

Expedia and Booking.com have indeed transformed the way we plan and book our travels, offering convenience and choice to millions of travelers worldwide. However, their duopoly status also raises concerns about competition, pricing, and the long-term health of the travel industry.

As consumers, it's crucial to be aware of these dynamics and consider alternative booking platforms when planning your next adventure. The future of the travel industry may depend on how regulators and competitors respond to the overwhelming influence of these two giants.

Let us know below your favorite alternative booking platform.

*This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure here.