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Hotelbeds accounted for about 13% of the pre-pandemic worldwide hotel wholesale market.

Expedia Group and Australia’s WebJet said this month they want to help hotel companies make more business-to-business sales. But a few private equity-backed companies, such as Hotelbeds and Fastpayhotels, spy an opportunity for independent travel tech players to take market share instead.

Here’s the backstory: Hoteliers seek to loosen the grip of online travel agency giants on distribution. Simultaneously, the pandemic-related revenue crunch is pushing hotel companies to automate many of their manual processes. The two trends are driving hotel owners to have higher expectations of their technology and connectivity partners for distributing their wholesale and business-to-business rates to offline travel agencies.

Hoteliers sent about $50 billion of rooms through bedbanks and other wholesale channels before the crisis. That’s a level that will likely rebound or grow after the pandemic eases.

Expedia Group Vice Chairman and CEO Peter Kern noted the opportunity during an earnings call earlier this month. Kern said his company had become a distribution point for a few chains.

“It gives us an opportunity to help them clean up the marketplace, where they might have a wholesale market that is perhaps being abused by some players and driving the wrong outcomes for them,” Kern said. “With our technology and with our approach, we can help clean that up for them.”

To be sure, some agencies will play along. The evidence comes from WebBeds, the Melbourne-based unit of travel agency Webjet. It handled about 4% of the pre-pandemic market. On February 16, Webjet managing director John Guscic told investors that his company saw steady volumes in its bedbank business despite not accepting so-called counterparty risk from agencies.

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