Besides its online travel agency, the Bellevue, Wash. company operates corporate travel-management business Egencia, Hotels.com and a number of other sites.
Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the idea for a program focused on small business came from customer analysis.
"We saw some power-users out there — booking 50 or 100 trips a year. Turns out they were travel arrangers for small businesses," Khosrowshahi says.
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Small businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, make up more than half of all companies in the U.S., according to the Small Business Administration. But less than one-third of all business travelers use a corporate system to book travel, according to travel industry research firm PhoCusWright.
That suggested more tools were needed for businesses to track travel, Khosrowshahi said.
Expedia’s closest competitor, Orbitz Worldwide launched its own small business-focused product in March. Orbitz for Business Express offers a dedicated booking website with special rates and company travel expense reports. Expedia CEO on Travel, U.S. Economy
Expedia CEO on U.S. Travel
Expedia CEO Khosrowshahi said he isn’t overly concerned about a slowdown in business travel growth as the economy remains shaky. That’s because of the importance of meeting in person.
"In an economy like this there is the tendency to be conservative, but all the data we see suggest that there is nothing that can replace the face-to-face relationship," Khosrowshahi said.
Although the online travel industry has held up fairly well in the sluggish economy, there are signs of weakness. Expedia’s bookings and revenue have grown at a much slower rate than some of its biggest competitors in recent months.
Three-fourths of Expedia’s revenue comes from selling hotel bookings, and that business grew by 16 percent in the second quarter. That more than offset a decline of 8 percent in airline ticket revenue.