Sounding Off: OTA version 2.0 is likely to come from outside the travel industry


Chris Hemmeter, Thayer Ventures

“Airbnb could make the strong argument that they are the world’s next OTA – OTA version 2.0.”

Quote from Chris Hemmeter, managing director of Thayer Ventures, in an article on PhocusWire this week on investment in the short-term rental market.

Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered on our site that week.

Chris Hemmeter is right: Airbnb does have an opportunity to position itself as a next-generation online travel agency.

But what is one of those entities likely to be, in reality?

Airbnb, in its current guise, is at an immediate disadvantage. It doesn’t have a transportation component, despite the high-profile appointment of Fred Reid in 2019.

Finding somewhere to stay is obviously at the heart of the planning process, yet in true “agency”-style those that have positioned themselves as full-service operations online have tended to include this element.

Many will point to Booking.com as an example of a mega online travel agency that does not have the transportation part in its arsenal of products.

But even this mega brand is heading in that direction now, as part of its connected trip strategy which began ramping up in 2019 and, presumably, will continue once things return to some sense of normality in the coming months and into 2021.

To feature alongside OTA version 1.0’s main players, Airbnb has its work cut out.

But, looking even further forward, OTA version 2.0 requires a lot more thought, with the super app concept in Asia Pacific where most eyes need to turn to for inspiration.

The brands that are able to position themselves in this as-yet undetermined role will most likely be all things to all people – selling more than just a form of accommodation and a flight.

Personalized offers, every component of a trip available for purchase, plus everything else that a traveler might need on a journey – insurance, ground transportation, guides, resources such as clothes and medication, plus the ability to book the things to do in a destination.

It sounds remarkably like OTA version 1.0, except this new world will sit within the e-commerce ecosystem that travelers play in for everything else that they buy online.

Now, what brands might be in a good spot to do that? It doesn’t take a genius to figure those out. And, some might argue, it’s not Airbnb.

PhocusWire’s regular editorials



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