Expedia is a travel-related metasearch engine on which users can search and book accommodations, activities, cars, cruises, and flights.
The company, which is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, was founded in 1996 by Rich Barton and Richard Bangs.
Expedia.com is part of the Expedia Group, which entails web properties such as Hotels.com, Vrbo, trivago, Hotwire, and more.
However, what many don’t know is that Expedia was launched as a sub-division of Seattle-based software giant Microsoft.
At the time, a young Rich Barton was working in Microsoft’s CD-ROM department where he created CDs for travel guides. He eventually transferred to Microsoft’s multimedia division where he would begin conceptualizing the idea for Expedia.
Every year, Microsoft employees would present promising product ideas to then-CEO and founder Bill Gates who immediately liked what he saw. Expedia would eventually be launched on Microsoft’s web portal MSN in October 1996.
Microsoft even bought a full-page ad on The Wallstreet Journal and promoted Expedia as the same reservation system that your travel agent would use. Three years later, after growing into one of the world’s biggest travel agencies, Expedia was spun out of Microsoft and went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange – the first company in the firm’s history to do so.
Berry Diller’s IAC, in 2003, acquired Expedia after investing $1.5 billion into the business two years earlier. Co-founder Barton, as a result, stepped down from his CEO role. He would go on to launch the real estate site Zillow just two years later.
Expedia, in the meantime, was spun out of IAC in 2005 to create what is now known as the Expedia Group. The combined holding company generated $8.6 billion in annual revenue for 2021. Earnings for Expedia.com are unfortunately not broken down.
Gross bookings for the same year were equal to around $72.4 billion. Over 25,000 people are now employed by the group.
The methodology with which competitors of Expedia are ranked is based on publicly available information. Data points such as revenue, number of listings and bookings, funding and valuation, the number of employees, and anything else that might be relevant will be considered.
This article only looks at booking site competitors who either aggregate listings from other platforms or directly work together with property owners, airlines, and such. As a result, indirect competitors, such as hotel chains (who actually own the locations they advertise on their websites), will be excluded.
We also consider Expedia-owned properties, such as Hotels.com or Vrbo, as competitors since they continue to operate as separate brands.
It has to be noted that this analysis should not be seen as an endorsement of either service. It is merely a summary of the competition that Expedia faces as of today.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 11 competitors of Expedia.
Headquarters: Amsterdam, The Netherlands Founder(s): Geert-Jan Bruinsma Year Founded: 1996
Booking.com is one, if not the world’s largest travel-related site. It is available in 43 languages and offers and boasts 28 million accommodations. Additionally, customers can book cars, flights, and activities via the platform.
Booking.com was launched by university graduate Geert-Jan Bruinsma who derived the inspiration for launching the platform after visiting Hilton.com for the first time. His home country of Holland, at the time, simply didn’t offer any local options to book hotels online. His site, Bookings.nl, therefore became the first in the country to offer such options.
In 2000, he agreed to merge with another site called Bookings Online. The dot-com crash had wiped out many of the funding opportunities previously available to startups like his.
They then acquired the Booking.com domain name soon after. Priceline, after failed acquisition talks with Expedia, acquired Booking for $133 million in 2005 – a huge bargain in hindsight. Booking Holdings is now worth over $70 billion.
For most of its existence, Booking.com had been part of Priceline. However, in 2018, it rebranded into Booking Holdings, which now owns sites such as Kayak, OpenTable, RentalCars.com, Agoda, and many more.
The platform now lists over 860,000 hotels and apartments, respectively. In 2021, Booking Holdings, which unfortunately doesn’t break down income figures for its namesake site, generated $11 billion in revenue. Gross bookings were equal to $76.6 billion over that timespan. Booking.com itself employs over 15,000 people across the globe.
Source: Booking.com, Booking Holdings, Skift
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk Year Founded: 2008
Airbnb is the world’s largest apartment booking platform. It now boasts six million listings, has four million hosts on the platform, and is available in 100,000 cities and towns as well as 220+ countries across the globe. Customers can book anything from cabins to tree houses. On top of that, Airbnb also has a separate events section.
Part of Airbnb’s success lies in the platform’s user-centric focus. Customers can, for example, complete a booking within less than three clicks. The user experience itself has largely stayed the same as well throughout the years.
However, Airbnb has also faced dozens of legal battles with cities across the globe. Those municipalities claimed that hosts were running illegal hotels and were thus liable to pay taxes. In 2018, for example, a couple in Manhattan was hit with a $1 million fine for illegally listing seven properties on sites like Airbnb.
Additionally, some have argued that Airbnb’s mere existence has led to higher rental costs (especially in popular destinations such as Barcelona or New York City), pricing out locals in the process. Trashed Airbnb rentals are certainly not uncommon, either.
Investors didn’t seem too worried, though. They have poured a combined $6.5 billion into the company, which went public in December 2020 and is valued at over $60 billion. In 2021, Airbnb has generated close to $6 billion in revenue. It currently employs over 6,000 people worldwide.
Source: Airbnb, Crunchbase, Curbed New York
3. Google Travel
Headquarters: Mountain View, California Founder(s): Google Year Founded: 2011
Google’s Travel product enables consumers to compare prices and book all types of travel-related items, including flights, hotels, and vacation rentals. Travel is now an integral part of the Google Search experience and oftentimes featured prominently across all types of customer queries.
Its advances in travel have begun as early as 2004 when the search giant launched Google Maps. The location data and reviews now inform a large part of the product, more precisely the Things To Do section. And since exploration is a huge part of travel, this certainly provides Google with a significant competitive advantage.
In 2010, Google acquired flight information software company ITA for $700 million. The purchase enabled them to launch Hotel Finder and Flights just a year after. In 2016, Google launched its Trips mobile app, which it rebranded into what we now know as Google Travel back in 2019.
Google does currently not publicize any traffic or revenue figures for Travel – with good reason. In the past, sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp have called out Google for its allegedly anti-competitive practices of favoring its own products.
On top of that, many of the most popular travel platforms now heavily rely on Google’s ads for traffic. It is estimated that Booking and Expedia spent almost $3 billion on Google ads in 2021 alone. Meanwhile, Google can acquire all that search traffic for free, simply by featuring its Travel products more prominently.
Headquarters: Shanghai, China Founder(s): James Liang, Min Fan, Neil Shen, Travis Katz Year Founded: 1999
Trip.com Group is China’s largest travel site with close to 34,000 employees. Travelers can book anything from accommodations (hotels, houses, apartments, etc.), flights, trains, cars, tours, cruises, activities, and much more.
In fact, over 1.2 million accommodations are available on the platform on top of the 480 bookable airlines. The holding company behind Trip.com also owns other sites, most notably Ctrip as well as Skyscanner (which it purchased for around $1.75 billion).
In fact, Trip.com actually began life as Ctrip but rebranded into its current name in 2019 to emphasize the firm’s international ambitions. It had purchased Trip.com just two years prior. What’s even more impressive is that the founders have built the business with only $500,000 in venture funding before going public on Nasdaq in 2003.
In 2021, Trip.com generated $3.1 billion in revenue. Recently, the firm became the first publicly-traded company in China to implement a hybrid work-from-home policy.
Source: Crunchbase, Trip.com
Headquarters: Singapore Founder(s): Robert Rosenstein, Michael Kenny Year Founded: 2005
Agoda offers two million properties (also including hotels) in 200 countries across the globe. Additionally, users can compare prices across activities and flights as well. And just like on many other platforms, including Booking or Expedia, travelers can earn points for purchasing via the platform.
The firm’s founder, Michael Kenny, first arrived in Southeast Asia in 1994 to work for the Arcadia Hotel Group (now Hilton). As the internet began to take shape, he launched various travel-related sites such as PlanetHoliday.com (1997) and PrecisionReservations.com (2003).
Those sites were eventually merged and led to the creation of agoda.com. To help him get the business off the ground, he recruited long-time friend and experienced online entrepreneur Rosenstein as a co-founder. A mere two years after launching, Agoda was acquired by Booking Holdings for an undisclosed amount.
Booking does currently not disclose revenue numbers of Agoda, which employs over 4,000 people in 30 countries.
Headquarters: Dallas, Texas Founder(s): David Litman, Robert Diener Year Founded: 1991
Hotels.com, as you’ve probably guessed, is primarily accessed to book hotels across the world. However, owners can also list their properties on Hotels.com. The site itself is available in 85 countries and 35 languages.
The company began as the Hotel Reservations Network (HRN), enabling customers to book hotels via free-of-charge phone calls. Since 2005, Hotels.com is owned by Expedia but has already been in the hands of IAC for four years running.
Apart from its super valuable brand domain (for which the company allegedly churned out $11 million back in 2002), Hotels.com has also been a marketing juggernaut. Captain Obvious, as portrayed by actor Brandon Moynihan, has amused hundreds of millions of people for portraying Hotels.com as “the obvious choice.”
Expedia, just like all the other firms on this list, chooses to not break down revenue figures for Hotels.com. The company itself currently employs over 1,000 people, most of whom are based in the United States. This probably indicates that the firm’s annual revenue is somewhere in the lower billion range.
Headquarters: Aurora, Colorado Founder(s): David Clouse Year Founded: 1995
Vrbo, which stands for “vacation rentals by owner,” became one of the first platforms where people could put up their vacation properties to be booked. The firm’s founder David Clouse actually launched the site to simply find people who’d be willing to rent his ski house in Colorado for when he wasn’t around.
While Airbnb has initially attracted apartment owners, customers had always known Vrbo as a platform to book vacation homes. These days, both platforms work in a similar fashion, allowing travelers to communicate with hosts, offering various insurances against damage and theft, and largely offering the same types of properties. In fact, many owners now list their homes on all kinds of platforms, including Expedia, to maximize exposure.
Vrbo itself was acquired by HomeAway in 2006. Nine years later, Expedia paid $3.9 billion to purchase HomeAway. In 2020, Expedia decided to merge the HomeAway brand into Vrbo, which is now considered to be one of the holding company’s most valuable web properties. Vrbo had just rebranded from ‘VRBO’ a year prior.
Today, there are over two million properties, such as cabins or beach houses, listed on the platform. Expedia went out of its way to promote Vrbo and even publicly disclosed that it expects the site to reach $2 billion in annual revenue some time in 2023.
Source: Expedia, PhocusWire, Vrbo
Headquarters: Needham, Massachusetts Founder(s): Stephen Kaufer, Langley Steinert Year Founded: 2000
Users on TripAdvisor can rate anything from hotels to airlines and destinations, which is what the company is primarily known for to this date. Not only that, having a TripAdvisor sign displayed on your restaurant or hotel is often seen as a significant sign of approval – and can lead to significant additional business.
In the early days, TripAdvisor started out as a search engine of searchable travel information for other internet businesses such as AOL. However, many businesses didn’t want to touch anything travel-related due to the ramifications of 9/11.
TripAdvisor itself had been created as a demo to show interested B2B customers what a consumer-facing travel search engine would look like (the original product was aimed at business customers). After some time, the website began taking a life of its own, attracting more and more visitors every week. The rest, as they say, is history.
The firm was acquired for $210 million by Expedia in 2004. Seven years after, TripAdvisor spun out from Expedia and became an independent company listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
What many don’t know is that customers can, furthermore, book hotels, flights, or vacation rentals directly on the platform. This is made possible by TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking feature, which was launched back in 2014.
TripAdvisor is now one of the biggest travel-related websites. It generates $902 million in annual revenue (most of it from advertising). The platform, which employs over 2,500 people, offers reviews on almost 9 million accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, and cruises.
Source: TripAdvisor, Statista
Headquarters: Düsseldorf, Germany Founder(s): Malte Siewert, Peter Vinnemeier, Rolf Schromgens Year Founded: 2005
trivago is the last Expedia-owned company on this list. In 2012, Expedia spent $632 million in cash and common stock to acquire 61.6 percent of trivago.
It is yet another metasearch engine that works together with booking sites, travel agencies, as well as the service provider (e.g., airline or hotel) itself. Its various partnerships have allowed the company to list over five million properties on its platform. Most of the revenue that trivago generates comes from click-based advertising.
Travelers, apart from a place to stay, can also book flights and rent cars on trivago. However, those listings are not always accurate.
In April 2022, the Australian government fined trivago $32.6 million for misleading consumers over hotel room rates on the site. trivago, despite those issues, is now Europe’s second-biggest metasearch engine, only trailing Booking.com.
In 2016, trivago became the first Germany-headquartered company to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The firm currently generates €361 million (~ $378 million) in annual revenue. Lastly, trivago employs over 1,000 people.
Source: Crunchbase, Reuters, trivago
Headquarters: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Founder(s): José Eduardo Mendes, João Ricardo Rangel Mendes Year Founded: 2011
Hurb, formerly known as Hotel Urbano, is South America’s largest travel-based metasearch engine. The platform boasts over 20 million registered members and has 12 million people following it on Facebook alone.
This is a particularly impressive feat considering that many of the companies on this list have been scooped up by the big two holding companies. Hurb, instead, has raised $135 million in venture funding to help the firm stay independent.
Hurb’s strong suit is the firm’s vast selection of hotels, especially in its home country of Brazil. Customers can, furthermore, book activities via the platform. The company currently employs close to 2,000 people.
Source: Crunchbase, Facebook, Hurb
Headquarters: Cambridge, Massachusetts Founder(s): Paul English, Steve Hafner, Terrell Jones Year Founded: 2004
KAYAK, despite its name probably indicating otherwise, is the world’s most popular site for booking plane tickets. All of the firm’s founders, prior to launching KAYAK, had been involved in the creation and sale of tech- and travel-related startups such as Orbitz.
Their experience and pedigree enabled the founders to raise close to $230 million in venture funding. Eight years after its founding, they took KAYAK public but ultimately delisted the company in 2013 after it had been acquired by Booking for $1.8 billion.
In 2019, KAYAK expanded into featuring properties as well. On top of that, customers can also book cruises, cars, and activities. KAYAK even launched its own branded and physical hotel (in Miami) back in 2021.
Just like the many other companies on this list, Booking does not disclose specific revenue numbers. KAYAK itself employs over 1,000 people and has previously acquired over a handful of companies such as Swoodoo or HotelsCombined.
Source: Crunchbase, KAYAK