Expedia’s new Accelerator program offers a way for hotel properties to move their way up from page three to the first page of listings on Expedia.com — all they might have to do is pay Expedia an additional 10% commission on top of their typical payments.
“Accelerator is still in the process of rolling out, with the tool becoming available for the majority of hoteliers in Q4 of 2015,” said Amanda Graham, senior manager of industry relations at Expedia.
Adam Anderson, managing director of industry relations at Expedia, noted: “Hoteliers want more control over how they can draw visibility.”
Unlike the old Google model, paid-placement isn’t signaled in Expedia’s program.
The company confirmed that visitors to the site won’t be showed any special messaging, a la “Promoted Hotel”, that might clue them into which hotels have sprung for this bid-for-placement option.
Expedia was eager to point out that a hotel cannot buy a premium spot. They must have earned it, which is something that should assure consumer confidence in the quality of the search rankings.
“There is no way a hotel (can go to the top) if its’ offer strength and quality score are low. If those are out of whack, involvement in the Accelerator program isn’t going to get them on page one,” said Anderson. “They can’t buy their way to the top. This is a small boost. The algorithm computes so it may bump them up ahead of their competitor.” “From a hotelier’s perspective, they care very deeply about their positioning in the marketplace,” said Anderson. “A hotel moving from the third page to the second page could have significant impact on their business.”
“We have to look at it from the bigger picture here,” said Max Starkov, president and CEO of HeBS Digital, a digital-marketing partner within the hospitality industry.
“There is an industry pushback to lower commissions.”
“Maybe you will get more business from Expedia, but at what cost? It’s an avenue for Expedia to make more money, period. It’s a very selfish one-sided program, period. They will not be listing the better hotels on top. From a consumer’s perspective, we’ll have hotels that do not deserve your attention and will be pushed in your face.”
Expedia, like any public company, is in a tough spot to maintain its high profitability, said Starkov. Only about five to six percent of visitors to Expedia, he claimed, end up booking on the site, and banner-advertising results are even less than that.
When asked if Booking.com’s Preferred Hotels program is similar to Accelerator, Expedia’s Graham declined to comment, citing a lack of familiarity with that program.
While some hotel industry consultants call the Expedia Accelerator program “the final nail in the coffin of hotel profitability,” Naas says “at certain times it is necessary” for independent hotels to use programs like Expedia Accelerator and Booking.com’s similar and older Preferred Program.