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Well positioned and focused: Expedia is set for more success

He radiates self-confidence, does not fear the competition, and is full of ideas about how to continue developing the Expedia group. Mark Okerstrom, with the company since 2006 and its president and CEO since 2017, is convinced that, after making many acquisitions over the past years, his company is now fully equipped to pursue its strategies. The intention is now to apply all its energy to the job in hand.

Today at the ITB Berlin Convention he spoke with the founder of PhoCusWright, Philip Wolf, about the successes and challenges of one of the world’s largest online travel agencies, about new technologies and their potential for completely transforming the world of travel marketing over the next few years. And one thing became clear: Okerstrom is not losing any sleep over the blockchain and the new crypto-currencies. And in the medium term he is also not worried about further purchases, although his M&A department is larger than ever. Work is in progress on in-destination offers. And should Airbnb’s new team seeks to enter the air travel sector, that does not bother him either, because the obstacles in this market with its vary narrow margins are so substantial that he can relax knowing he is already some way ahead of them.

Mobility – the most important challenge

Instead his mind is occupied by the geographical gaps in the range and scope of Expedia, which he intends to fill. He does not want people searching for a trip to simply rely on a screen but instead he plans to adopt a second role, one that has until now been the preserve of traditional travel agencies: to also act as an online travel agent and provide customers with individual advice, based on a familiarity with their travel experiences and not just knowing what they are booking, but also offering them support during the trip as well.

However, for Okerstrom by far and away the greatest challenge lies in the field of mobility. “Most recently reservations for one third of our travel arrangements have been made on online terminals, a proportion that will rise to 50 per cent this year. Nowadays everyone carries a smartphone, which they also use when travelling. We must adapt to this situation.” The recipe for his success: not to copy his competitors but to focus on his own ideas; decide what not to do and concentrate on the essentials, to ensure that colleagues are attuned to this and then, and this is vital, to carry it out quickly and in a concentrated way. This will be much in evidence at Expedia in the immediate future.   

Isabel Bommer

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