Expedia Lays Out Travel Plans for Mobile; Hotel Booking Is First

Expedia flew all the way to Orlando today to make a big splash at CTIA about its upcoming plans for the mobile space.

At a press conference, Scott Durchslag, president of Expedia.com, was expected to unveil Expedia Hotels, a free iPhone app that lets users filter and book hotel rooms from their device.

The app will be available once it gets rubber-stamped by Apple, and an Android version is expected to follow in April. Expedia Hotels is the first product built by Mobiata, a developer of mobile travel applications, that Expedia acquired in November 2010.

In an interview prior to the press conference today, Durchslag told us that the hotel app is the first in a series of initiatives that the company will roll out in mobile this year.

The hotel application will automatically use GPS to find hotels nearby. The results can be filtered by price, rating, popularity or distance, and ratings are provided by TripAdvisor. Durchslag said from their experience with users on the mobile web, 70 percent of people searching on the phone are looking for a room for a single person, for a single night for the same day.

The application will default to those settings.

To be sure, Expedia’s plans don’t stop there. More apps will come later this year, and it doesn’t intend to stop with smartphone owners.

Phase two and three includes working with handset makers and carriers to embed applications onto devices before they are shipped to consumers.

While those types of partnerships used to be standard in mobile in order for companies to get wide distribution, the focus more recently has shifted to building applications for smartphones because of the speed to market and fewer barriers.

Durchslag defends the strategy: “Expedia is the world’s largest travel site, and while smartphones are the trend, and they are big and growing in Europe and Asia, there’s still a big portion of the population that doesn’t have one. Preloading onto feature phones is phase two, and building an unbelievable experience on smartphones is job one.”

Durshlag also says the plans synch up with what Expedia’s broader goal is for the company, which he calls “Expedia Everywhere.”

“The essence of that vision is to delight the earth’s travelers, and to help them find the perfect trip whenever and wherever they want. Mobile becomes really important when you are traveling,” he said.

Other companies have also identified travel as the latest frontier on mobile. Kayak says its mobile applications have already been downloaded more than five million times, and it recently started allowing customers to book hotel accommodations directly from them instead of referring them out to third parties, such as Expedia.

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