The old guard of travel companies – Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz – have seemingly been in a holding pattern since the late 1990’s when it comes to technological innovation.  These companies were slow when it came to moving to mobile, and have also been slow when it comes to redesigning “outdated” websites.

Now Expedia is taking a major step and one that it hopes will capture more travelers and make searching for travel accommodations a less industrial experience and a more sensual one.  The company previewed its new tablet app, which focuses on striking, large scenic visuals, at a recent launch event in San Francisco.

The home screen of the new tablet app is a map with themed “collections” of cities: Cities that never sleep, romantic getaways, upcoming festivals, etc.

Getting Inspiration from New Faces
Over the last few years, the company put an army of engineers on the case of rebuilding its technical infrastructure from the ground up, so that it would be easier to experiment with new products.  In the last year, Expedia also quietly rolled out updates to its mobile app.  It even added “mobile rates” for rooms available that night – a feature that closely resembles Hotel Tonight.

During the Q&A session of the product launch, Expedia’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addressed the new travel upstart Hotel Tonight:

“Hotel Tonight is a great new player,” Khosrowshahi said. “When you look at us we have a much broader swath of inventory and were able to get deals.  Hotel Tonight can deliver strong deals across a narrow base of inventory.  Both pieces of that service can grow.”

Khosrowshahi also confirmed that since the release of an enhanced mobile app, Expedia is seeing a big rise in last minute bookings.

Plenty of Competition in the Travel Industry
In terms of monthly unique visitors, Expedia is the largest full-service online travel agency in the world.  It does face stiff competition though, with chunks of its business being carved away by Priceline and Orbitz, and smaller chunks at risk of being carved away by the likes of Hotel Tonight and Airbnb.  To keep its reigning crown, Expedia needs to keep up with newer entrants to the online travel space technologically.

Khosrowshahi also claimed that he’s not too worried about Airbnb’s impact on Expedia, and the travel industry in general.  “We’re definitely keeping an eye on it,” he said.  “As far as the effect on the travel business, we don’t see a significant effect at this point.

To read more about Expedia’s new tablet app and other technological advancements, click here.

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