Late last summer Sabre and Expedia announced an agreement which allowed Sabre to include 63,000 Expedia properties at Expedia prices in its booking inventory. The agreement was with EAN, the Expedia Affiliate Network, a subsidiary which specialises in partnerships which make Expedia content available for booking via other websites.
Last week EAN announced that the quantity of inventory being provided to Sabre was being increased to 87,000. The new content is from both a wide range of property types — full-service hotels and resorts, B & Bs and small inns, airport hotels, boutique hotels, budget hotels and serviced apartments — and regions. The release does stress that although the content "covers all regions, many of the properties are in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, typically where hotel property content is known for being highly fragmented."
Sabre now claims to have accommodation content of more than 750,000 properties. This comprises both its own inventory and that provided by "hotel aggregator partners", ie other consolidators and intermediaries.
The fact that the content will be for both leisure and business users is immaterial. This is making the point that the battle for hotel distribution is far from over and the vigour with which it is being pursued indicates that Sabre believes that it can continue to add value for its direct customers — the agents and TMCs — through its content. It will do this not only by offering more content but content that (1) will benefit from the merchandising treatment it can get from an Expedia, namely property characteristics and personalised offerings, and (2) is not necessarily the traditional international chain, GDS property.
For buyers two things need to be noted.
First, the variety of properties is a direct response from a traditional distribution channel to what the market sees as a thirst among travellers, both leisure and business, for more authenticity and choice in accommodation. The announcement deliberately highlights non-traditional transient accommodation such as B & Bs, serviced apartments and budget hotels.
Second, it's a direct volley against those big chains — Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, IHG and Choice — which are making no secret of a strategy to encourage direct bookings to reduce their own distribution costs. Sabre is promoting the options.
It means that there is competition among accommodation suppliers for your business. There is also competition amongst booking channels about how you're going to buy that accommodation. Might be time to compare the relative value of different booking channels.