We’re back this month with another technology profile: this time with Greg Schulze, senior vice president of global tour and development. Many people know Expedia offers hotel deals, but few realize just how many different travel elements we provide. Greg’s team manages the various elements travelers may be searching for outside of hotels: flights, rental cars, and cruises. I chatted with him following his session at The Future of Travel, an event hosted by The Economist, held earlier this week in Madrid, Spain. Leaders from the travel industry came together at the conference to discuss global technology, innovation, and regulation topics and forecast what the business will look like over the next ten years. Greg was excited to share the inside scoop about his role at Expedia, and the future of technology in travel.
Tarran Vaillancourt (TV): What made you want to work for Expedia, and how long have you been with the company?
Greg Schulze (GS): I joined Expedia in 2005. I was working for an airline and loving the travel industry, but also wanted to work for a top-tier technology company. The internet was already a big part of travel and Expedia was a clear leader, but there was still so much opportunity. From the beginning, Expedia has been singularly focused on how to use technology to improve the travel experience.
TV: As senior vice president of global tour and transport, what elements do you oversee?
GS: We like to say at Expedia that my team works on everything that moves. We create global, integrated strategies for Expedia’s air, car, package, rail, cruise, and insurance lines of business. This includes the management of our relationships with airlines, car rental companies, and cruise lines, in addition to partnerships for connectivity, insurance, rail, and tour operator packages.
TV: What is your favorite part of working for Expedia, and what’s your proudest accomplishment from the time you’ve spent with the brand?
GS: We are a global company and I always enjoy traveling to our offices around the world. Expedia people are not just great technologists, but we are also passionate about travel. I am proud that after 20 years, Expedia continues to innovate, inspires people to travel, and provides an easy (delightful?) experience.
TV: What kind of travel trends can we expect to be big in 2015?
GS: Mobile continues to grow. And we all expect to have a seamless experience between mobile and desktop and back to mobile. We consumers are getting smarter because we have all the information needed to enjoy travel at our fingertips. But planning trips is becoming increasingly complex, as airlines add more and more options. You’ll see Expedia continue to lead the industry in providing a clear view of your choices and helping you to make informed purchase decisions.
TV: Speaking of travel this year, I took a look at the recently released Preparing for Takeoff: Air Travel Trends 2015 report. Can you tell us more about what travelers can expect in terms of air travel this year? Any tips for finding and securing the best deals on airfare based on the report?
GS: Here’s the advice I would give travelers from our report:
- Book early to save big. Our analysis of industry data indicates that the earlier you book for both domestic and international travel, the bigger your per-ticket savings could be.
- Be sure to check fares on Tuesday. Expedia data indicates that when buying an air ticket more than 21 days before the date of departure, Tuesday still offers travelers the greatest likelihood of finding a good deal.
- Book as a package. Travel is often cheaper when air tickets are purchased as part of a vacation package that includes a hotel and other travel services (such as a rental car and/or activities). You can find great package deals here on Expedia.com.
The panel at The Future of Travel
TV: How has Expedia’s big investment in technology helped customers make sense of all of the air transportation options available to them on Expedia.com?
GS: Our customers will do more than 5 billion flight searches this year on Expedia and we will sell more than 300,000 origin and destination combinations. This allows us to very quickly understand what is working or not and to make enhancements. Over the last few years, our air experience improved significantly, and we are working continuously to optimize in this space.
One innovation I’m particularly excited about is the partnership we expect to rollout this year to provide customers with the ability to search for and purchase “branded fares” from select airlines. Branded fares mean the customer has a few different options on the same flight and each option provides a different level of benefits. In the past, most of us only worried about economy vs. first class; now we have several economy class options. The introduction of branded fares by airlines has caused an explosion in the number of options to evaluate. There’s a terrific opportunity for airlines to differentiate themselves through these branded fares, but it’s important to consumers that they understand what they’re looking at. Expedia will play an important role helping airlines reach more customers with unique product offerings, and we’ll provide travelers with clear information to help them make informed decisions.
TV: Are there any other Expedia offerings you’re especially excited about?
GS: We are doing some really cool things to help travelers know what to expect with every flight option. Some customers want the cheapest flight and are willing to sacrifice comfort, Wi-Fi, or food. Other customers will pay more if the product or service is better. We partnered with a company called Routehappy to push more information to shoppers and to help them find the flight experience that best fits their needs. On Expedia, customers see data including Aircraft, Seat, Layout, Wi-Fi, Entertainment, and Power on the majority of flights globally. That makes it easier to find the perfect flight.
TV: Right – I remember we posted a blog about our partnership with Routehappy late last year.
GS: Oh great – I’m sure there are screenshots available to show what the experience looks like.
TV: There are! Okay, one last request – please complete this sentence, “A vacation is not complete without…”
GS: My family!!