Hot Seat – Rebecca Cregan

Rebecca is Director, Market Management for Expedia Group Lodging Partner Services, responsible for leading the market management team in Canada.

Rebecca has over ten years of experience with Expedia Group supporting various markets throughout the Northeast United States, New York City and Canada.  A proud graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rebecca has lived in Boston, New York City and most recently Toronto. In her spare time, she loves to travel, cook and discover hidden gems across Canada.

What brought you into the industry?

Expedia Group! I began my career in hospitality with Expedia Group and have been here for close to 11 years. I started from our Boston office and spent four years working in market management. Then traversed multiple markets in that territory, experiencing the city, suburbs and beach. From there I migrated down the East Coast to work in the frenzied market that is New York City, feeding off its quick pace and high energy. And I found my way back to Boston to take on my first leadership role at Expedia Group where I led a remote team of individuals across New England. We were focused on property acquisition — something that hadn’t worked with Expedia previously – what a challenge.

Then I moved back to New York (yes again). This time in New York, I managed a team of Market Managers there and again thrived in the hustle for nearly three years. Eight months ago, I moved North to Toronto, taking my first crack at living outside of the U.S. permanently. Here I support the team that manages nearly every market across Canada stretching from Halifax to Victoria, spanning four time zones and speaking two languages. It is a fresh and exciting opportunity.

Plus I survived my first winter in Canada, so that’s a noteworthy feat.

What’s your personal travel style?

I challenge myself to explore one new country a year. I don’t know where I will go this year – I might deviate from the plan while I settle into home life in Canada, so I can get to know this country better. Even though I’ve been here before there’s still so much to see. One of my favorite vacations so far was a two-and-a-half-week trip to Scandinavia. The cities are so beautiful and clean, the people are kind and friendly and I’m really tall (6 ft) so I fit in well, which was nice. *laughs*

What keeps you in the industry?

My favorite thing about the industry is the pace of change in our business. No day is the same; and like a hotel, you have different guests coming through the door, so you never know what to expect. It’s similar at Expedia Group. Our products and technology are continuously evolving to provide maximum value for our hotel partners. I’ve worked in the industry for 11 years and have very few complaints. Part of change is with people. There can be a lot of turnover which is challenging because I’m a relationship-driven person, so forming those relationships and having them quickly move on can be difficult at times.

What keeps you at Expedia Group?

I enjoy the people I work with on a daily basis. This is the third office I’ve worked in at Expedia Group. People are open to helping each other and are invested as a team – we talk about ‘one team, group first’, and I see that resonate in every office. It’s something I value in my personal life, so I like to see that happen at work.

The second part is Expedia Group’s willingness to embrace change. I am someone who needs to be learning, evolving and experiencing different things daily. That’s what keeps me here. I can honestly say every day I learn something here. Lastly, I love to travel. Travel is an easy area for me to work in because it’s hard to get me to stop talking about it. *laughs*

You mentioned being relationship-driven. How does this set Expedia Group apart?

First, we’re in the people business. The nature of our industry is to provide a solid service to consumers coming in the door of the hotel and we have a shared responsibility in that. Second, we’re working towards a mutual goal. If we can build rapport with a partner, where they feel comfortable sharing their goals, and motivations, that makes a difference. It’s easier for us to have a partner-centric conversation with hotels since we’re not just talking to them about a product the company has created. Rather our products are solutions to help them meet their business goals. For me it’s an ongoing relationship. We’re able to work together!

How has the industry performed recently?

When I look back at Canada in 2018, it was another record-breaking year. For the industry, STR research noted that it grew on average 3% per quarter last year[1]. What is awesome to see is Expedia Group also experienced great growth last year, at about 3 times that rate. We were able to bring a lot of valuable consumers into Canada and when you look back, one of the demand drivers was growth from our international and package consumers.

If you look at our top ten points of sale in Canada, nine of 10 in grew more than double digits YOY room nights last year. We’re bringing a lot of those valuable international consumers and additionally focusing on that package consumer. Breaking down between our international and domestic guests, our international consumers on our package path – our bookings are up 50% YOY with a 10% increase in ADR. So bringing that high value, long length of stay customer into Canada.

The first couple of months this year were not as strong as we’ve seen previously, in Canada as an industry. We saw in December and January RevPAR for the country slightly retracted – largely driven by an inability to grow ADR quite as much. There’s a very strong U.S. Dollar right now, which is creating headwinds abroad from a currency standpoint. China has been an additional driver, so we are also starting to see signs of that economy slowing down. They are a major feeder for tour and travel in Canada, so we’ve also been seeing results from that. It’s not quite as frequent as last year.

What are some differentiating factors Canada hotels can consider for revenue management?

Our proximity to the U.S. is a great asset. Right now, our currency is roughly 20-35% below the U.S. Dollar making us an attractive destination to American consumers. That’s where Expedia Group really is a great asset to hotels, because we have a very strong member base here and in the United States. If you’re looking to promote your property, draw in more of those American consumers to stay the night or longer, and spend more on property and upgraded room type (because of the competitive currency advantage), we can provide that exposure.

Additionally, we have brands like Hotwire that have a very strong customer base in Canada and the U.S., so it’s great to promote your hotel through some of these channels as well. It can help you draw in that consumer to your property.

How do you encourage hotel partners to leverage Hotwire as part of their strategy?

We have a great Hotwire team in Canada – they’re experts and we work very closely with them and collaborate on hotel partner visits.  Each of our various brands at Expedia Group has different customer dynamics, demographics, and consumer behaviors. Hotwire for example, is a great one to use both last-minute, but also further out. The way Hotwire works is you offer the rate you would like to receive for that booking, and it’s nonrefundable and also does not reveal the name of your hotel until after booking. It’s a great way to secure a booking that you know will not cancel. If a hotel tells us they need to protect brand integrity, or make sure they bring in a certain rate of occupancy and don’t chance cancellation – those are times and indicators where we would recommend a strategy with Hotwire.

How do you react to the ‘OTAs vs Direct Bookings’ topic?

I view us more as partners. It’s about how much do I understand what that hotel is looking for in order to get the right booking coming into their doors. Also how do they want to use us as a marketing channel: are they looking to drive ADR? Increase visibility on our sites? Capture longer length of stay consumers? These are the things I prefer to focus on with properties because then I can recommend the right strategies for them to reach the right consumers. I don’t view it as OTA versus booking direct – it’s more how can we provide a complementary strategy to your business.

The products we’ve developed over the past few years support that message – take Rev+ for example. That’s a free revenue management solution we offer to properties that work with us through our Partner Central portal. It’s a great tool that allows you to look at predicted market occupancy, opportunities to increase rates, and when should you be more competitive. We try to help you maximize revenue through certain channels by offering these free technology solutions to help. It’s not just about being a distribution platform. There are tons of ways we love to partner with properties from the pre, during, and post-stay.

Can you share other examples of how EG goes beyond distribution?

We help hotels protect their brand reputation before guests leave their property. From a customer satisfaction standpoint, one of the most important concepts is ‘can you fix it’ and ‘how fast’. If you can do this while they’re at the hotel, rather than waiting for guest feedback when they leave, they will be more satisfied with their stay. Our Real-time Feedback tool in Partner Central helps solve for this problem. Hoteliers follow-up with guests immediately after check-in, asking about their experience, how their room is, providing hoteliers the information to address any concerns a guest may have. It allows guests to be overjoyed and delighted at the quality of service at your property – another example of Expedia Group going acting as an end-to-end solution for your hotel.

How can hotels thrive with Expedia Group?

It’s all about sharing with your market managers. Hotels can be reluctant to share their goals, but your market manager asks those questions to understand what you’re working towards, so we can work together to help you achieve your goals. There might be fear or misconceptions that we will disrupt your successful business, when we’re looking to build your customer base and business through our channels.

How does Hotwire stand out for partners and Expedia Group?

My favorite thing about Hotwire is the team. What I see from the team at Hotwire is a fun, excited, energetic, never stops bunch. They put the energy behind their sail and have chutzpah, which I respect.

Final thoughts/words for hotel partners?

The platform focus for Expedia Group is a great direction for us – we’re looking to ensure we are relevant for consumers across our entire portfolio of brands. Because of the work we have and do, we’re truly an amazing one-stop shop. It’s a great place for hotels to come to with all their business needs. I’ll leave it with ‘come work with us’! And for any Americans reading this article: Come to Canada, we have it all, including a 30% discount for you *wink*

[1] STR Summary 2018 December