Orbitz is back with a focus on the LGBTQ travel market

Skift take

Six years after bringing together the Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia brands into the Expedia Group, the company is now embarking on the great experimentation to differentiate their value propositions and target markets. If that doesn’t work, brand consultants never tire of giving their advice.

Dennis Schaal, Skift

With a dozen online travel agency brands in the fold, Expedia Group is redefining and distinguishing them to focus on key customers and avoid too much unproductive overlap.

This is one of the reasons Expedia Group recently relaunched Orbitz with a focus on LGBTQIA + Marlet. It’s part of Expedia’s larger effort to retool its patchwork of online travel agency brands, all of which have resulted in acquisitions over a couple of decades.

Whether it’s online travel agencies or hotel brands, differentiating content and target audiences is a challenge for businesses from all walks of life, whether in the travel industry or other industries.

“We have relaunched our Orbitz brand with a focus on LGBTQIA +,” Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia Group, told investors last month. “And that’s kind of, again, a push as we try to differentiate brands and really focus each brand in its market.”

Orbitz, which has a history of LGBTQ advocacy and claims to be the first online travel agency to mention “gay travel” on its pages in 2002, received a redesign pride microsite in April, just in time for Pride Month in June. Travelers can search for hotels on Orbitz that have signed a commitment to inclusion.

Henri Harteveldt from Atmosphere Research Group described Orbitz’s relaunch as a “first” in terms of a general-purpose online travel agency focusing on LGBTQ customers as the primary audience.

“It’s a lightning bolt,” Harteveldt said. “We’ve never seen anyone take a mainstream brand and refocus their marketing on the LGBTQ community. “

But the extent of this concentration and its duration will be a work in progress. The default hotel search on Orbitz is not specific to LGBTQ; travelers access the pride microsite to search for LGBTQ-friendly hotels.

“Orbitz will have to market this aggressively enough that the message gets through the clutter,” Harteveldt said.

The relaunch of Orbitz was indeed accompanied by a modest advertising campaign.

“We did a lot of qualitative and quantitative research last year before the launch of ‘Travel As You Are’” and the idea behind this campaign was simple: For so many LGBTQIA travelers, feeling safe and accepted is always the exception, not the norm, ”said an Expedia Group spokesperson. “As an online travel provider, we provide information and resources that help travelers experience the world on their own terms. And as a brand, that means being their defender and defending the causes that are close to their hearts. “

Noting that the “LGBTQ community is often invisible in travel marketing,” Harteveldt enjoys the inclusiveness, timing, and lack of specificity of the Orbitz ad campaign theme, “Travel the way you are”. With people thinking and traveling again, Orbitz was smart to kick off the ad campaign when it did, he said.

When it came to TV advertising in June, however, Expedia Group’s priorities were Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Vrbo, according to iSpot.tv. In addition to those three brands, Booking Holdings’ Priceline, along with Airbnb, ranked in the top five online travel sites in terms of ad spend – Orbitz was not one of them. Orbitz did not disclose the potential spend through other channels, or the overall cost of the campaign.

Expedia Travel Optimizers

Meanwhile, the group’s flagship brand, Expedia.com, recently ran its biggest marketing campaign in years to redefine itself as partially targeting “travel optimizers.” In Expedia parlance, this means that “the traveler who wants to be engaged by the possibilities, but now more than ever, needs support throughout their journey,” according to the company.

Online travel agency Sister Travelocity is committed to focusing on American families with young children, including targeting Hispanic families with TV spots in Spanish.

Rachel Shin, a spokesperson for Travelocity, said the company does not view the brand adjustments as a rebranding in its own right. “We don’t plan to alienate any of our existing consumers, but instead we are working to streamline and refocus our communications strategies to better reach Hispanic families and travelers,” Shin said. “Our overall goal is to be the most reliable, family-friendly travel site. “

This means that Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, once bitter rivals but now under the ownership of the Expedia Group, have all undergone branding adjustments to varying degrees. This happens about six years after their union.

Additionally, Expedia’s Cheaptickets brand is being changed to focus on college students and young travelers because, after all, younger people tend to like “cheap”.

Expedia positions Hotels.com, with a rewards program that grants one free night for 10 stays, to be for frequent travelers, and Vrbo’s ideal location is for complex family travel, primarily for stays in rental accommodations. vacation throughout the house.

Differentiation of hotels from online travel agencies

In some ways, it’s easier to differentiate hotel brands than online travel agencies, Atmosphere’s Harteveldt argued.

Hotel properties have geographic restrictions written into their contracts, he said, so Marriott International’s Renaissance and Sheraton properties would theoretically not be vying for the same customers in a given location, Harteveldt said.

But Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and Hotels.com have no contractual barriers that would prevent them from stealing other people’s customers.

With their products having an overwhelming overlap, Expedia Group hopes the marketing and a renewed focus will make a difference.