Expedia has experienced a healthy 2014. The world’s second largest online travel services provider (in terms of gross booking volume of $39.2 billion) displayed a 22% year-on-year increase in revenues for the first nine months of 2014, to $4.4 billion. The key factors propelling this growth were the healthy performance of the hotel room nights and air tickets segments. The top line growth, combined with the disciplined investments in selling and marketing, led to a solid bottom line. Net Income for the first nine months of 2014 increased by 141% year-on-year to $332 million.
In this article, Trefis discuss the major acquisitions and partnerships undertaken by Expedia in 2014. They describe the strategic significance of the deals, and how these will lead to further growth in the future.
Extended Partnership With HomeAway: Expedia Forays Further Into The Vacation Rental Space
In September 2014, Expedia declared that it will continue its partnership (initiated in October 2013) with HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation rental website. HomeAway services account for approximately 15% of the U.S. and European vacation rental bookings market.  HomeAway’s website has more than one million live listings in 190 countries. 
Expedia would now be able to list 115,000 HomeAway vacation rental properties on its U.S. website. Vacation rentals are privately owned residential properties that property owners and managers rent to travelers on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis. According to a study by PhoCusWright, the market for vacation rentals in the U.S. stood at $23 billion in 2012, lower than its levels prior to the recession. However, the share of online sales in vacation rentals doubled from 12% in 2007 to 24% in 2012, and this is expected to increase to 30% by 2014. 
Expedia believes that the vacation rentals listing will complement its existing business and will not undermine its hotel bookings, which currently accounts for more than 70% of its revenue. While the partnership will give HomeAway vacation rental owners and property managers exposure to more than 13.4 million monthly visitors on Expedia, Expedia users will get the benefit of being able to bundle home rentals with flights, cars and other travel bookings offered through the website.
Expedia’s Wotif Acquisition: Ensuring Market Dominance In Australia And New Zealand
In November 2014, Expedia completed its acquisition of Australia-based Wotif Group for $612 million. Wotif Group is a prominent player in the Asia Pacific market with a host of travel brands under its umbrella, including Wotif.com, lastminute.com.au, travel.com.au, Asia Web Direct, LateStays.com, GoDo.com.au and Arnold Travel Technology. Wotif’s portfolio focuses on hotel and air, offering consumers more than 29,000 bookable properties across the globe. The group currently operates from Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, UK and Vietnam. 
Wotif was Expedia’s major rival in Australia and New Zealand. With 1.3 million hotel reviews on its platform, Wotif had a market leadership in hotel reviews in the Australia New Zealand (ANZ) market. According to September 2013 data from Experian Hitwise, among top travel websites in Australia, Wotif held the second position and Expedia, the third position. Also, among top New Zealand travel websites, Expedia enjoyed the first position and Wotif, the second. 
According to a report by PhoCusWright, the Asia Pacific (APAC) market overtook Europe to become the global leader in regional travel in 2012. The Australia-New Zealand market accounted for 17% of APAC’s online travel market and earned $13.7 billion in online gross bookings. For 2015, the market size is estimated to be around $126.6 billion. 
Hence, both now and in the future, Asia Pacific will be a strategically important sector for online travel companies. The ANZ market is the third largest market in the APAC region, and Wotif is a prominent player in the ANZ market. Hence, we expect the acquisition to propel Expedia’s growth in the ANZ market and this in turn would be a contributing factor in establishing Expedia’s dominance in the APAC market.
Expedia’s Auto Escape Acquisition: Boosting The Car Rental Service Segment
Expedia acquired French car rental company, Auto Escape, in June 2014. The acquisition increased its exposure to the $36.9 billion global car rental industry, which is expected to grow at a compounded rate of 13.6% to reach $79.5 billion by 2019, according to Transparency Market Research. 
Auto Escape offers car rental services from over 300 car rental suppliers in 125 countries, and has a fleet of over 800,000 vehicles. It is estimated that Auto Escape’s revenues increased fivefold in the last five years to €120 million ($160 million).  Auto Escape became a part of the CarRentals.com brand, a business unit managed by Expedia’s Hotwire Group.
Although the contribution of car rentals and cruises to the valuation of Expedia is in low single-digits, we believe that the Auto Escape acquisition will help it sell more vacation packages and destination services since car rental is an integral part of such offerings.