Expedia Inc. (EXPE) CFO Mark Okerstrom was present at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco on February 16, where he sounded upbeat about his company's relationship with Google, and the opportunities that Europe presents the travel firm.
Okerstrom said that Expedia’s relationship with Google is “very instructive” and that it’s “never been stronger.” However, he noted that with Google shrinking free traffic, and deciding to monetize about half or the entire first page of searches instead, Expedia is going to suffer to some extent over the long haul.
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi just about confirmed this in the most recent earnings call when he said Google’s monetization initiatives is limiting the travel company’s aspiration to widen its audience reach at its HomeAway segment. This is also making Expedia spend more money with Google. Researchers at Skift, a travel media firm, valued Expedia’s spending with Google in 2016 at approximately $3 billion, roughly 20% percent higher than in 2015.
Okerstrom also touted Europe as a “huge opportunity” for Expedia, assuring investors that the company will be more active on the continent this year. He said this while responding to competitive concerns due to Priceline’s acquisition of Momondo, which he downplayed.
He also believes that Expedia is benefiting from the fact that Airbnb is popularizing the alternative accommodation space. However, Airbnb just got one over Expedia with its acquisition of Canada-based Luxury Retreats. Expedia was hoping to expand its luxury offering with Luxury Retreats’ 4,000-plus properties around the world by bidding higher than Airbnb. However, reports have it that Luxury Retreats founder Joe Poulin found Airbnb more attractive because Airbnb is likely to give him more control than Expedia or Accor SA, which also submitted a bid, would have given him.
Adding up the numbers of homes listed on Expedia’s Luxury Rentals’ website, an arm of HomeAway, suggests that Expedia currently has a minimum of 6,141 luxury vacation homes. Luxury Retreats would have been a huge addition.