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Ah, good ole Willie Shatner, riding the wave of success, again. Priceline, the global leader in the online hotel business, features Shatner as its spokesperson. They also recently added Kaley Cuoco, of Big Bang Theory fame. This in itself is a sci-fi geek’s wet dream. The only thing that would make it better would be putting in Seven of Nine and Lt. Uhura. But I digress. Priceline is the unquestioned leader of European online reservations, via Booking.com. They’ve also acquired Agoda.com, a major player in the Asian market. You would think they would be the leader in the American market, but alas, they are only third. Even with the acquisition of Kayak and the introduction of Booking.com into the American market, they still trail Expedia by roughly 4 million in sales. They also trail Orbitz by 1 million, but they are closing the gap there.
Priceline started out mainly in the online airfare market, but switched gears around the time that Shatner was hired on. They moved into the hotel and rental car (a tie-in to Enterprise would have been extremely apt here) bookings markets, to offer a total travel package. So why aren’t they number one here, when they have such a strong market presence internationally, not to mention the charisma of Captain Kirk? For one thing, hotels here are more chain driven, whereas in other markets there are a multitude of smaller, individually owned hotels. The chains want to control the pricing, and drive people to their websites, rather than give discounts to individual online companies (they would either have to give them an across the board discount rate to all the companies and undermine their own website; or give each online company a different rate, and cause lawsuits of favoritism, etc., and still undermine their site). The other thing that held them back is that their brand, Priceline, is still associated with bidding for rates, and possibly not getting a good rate for the day/s consumers want. Hence, Booking .com comes in as an alternative. I have a feeling that this brand will be taking off in the next couple of years, and will help Priceline overtake Orbitz (who mainly relied on the airfare market), and give Expedia a run for its money. Why? William Shatner is why. Sure, he may not be associated with Booking.com right now, but everything he touches makes money somehow. Star Trek, TJ Hooker, his music albums, books, and tons more. You add in the sex appeal of Kaley (ala Nichelle Nichols, Heather Locklear), well, enough said.