Today we are interviewing travel industry rockstar Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia Inc. Last Tuesday, Expedia Inc. announced an agreement to acquire Venere.com from Advent International and Venere’s founders.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your fabulous career?
Well, I’m not sure if you can call my career fabulous but it certainly has been interesting and a ton of fun. I was an Engineering major at college and planned to pursue a technical career. That is until I met my girlfriend in New York City and had to go there to be with her. There weren’t many technical jobs in New York, so I joined a small Investment Bank called Allen & Company.
I advised a number of clients in the Media and Entertainment industries in the mergers and acquisitions area. It was a time of great consolidation in the area, and incredibly interesting and exciting. Barry Diller became a client of mine and asked me to join him in a new company that he was building, named Home Shopping Network. I joined as the head of strategic planning in 1998, the early heyday of the Internet.
Over the next 7 years we transformed the company from a small shopping network to a media and internet conglomerate, and bought the businesses that would form the base of what is now Expedia – Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com and TripAdvisor.com. In 2005 we decided to seperate the travel businesses from the rest of the portfolio – Expedia Inc. was born and I was lucky enough to be selected as the CEO.
What would you expect to be the next big thing in travel distribution?
I still think that there is a ton of potential in personalizing the travel experience for the traveler. Right now OLTAs [online travel agencies] pretty much treat every customer the same way – show them the same options, give them the same experience. With the wealth of data and tracking available, we should be able to provide a much more tailored experience to the traveler. Hopefully this can drive loyalty in a very competitive environment.
How will the new ownership of venere.com affect users and hotels? How will Venere and Expedia customers benefit from the new situation?
I think it will afford Venere the opportunity to make longer term bets on its future. We are interested in making Venere ten times bigger than it is now. That means many many more customers and hotels all over the world.
What makes Venere special and how do you see Venere’s future?
I love the site – I think Venere is the most distinctive hotel web site out there. There is a certain same-ness that has settled into the industry and I really like the unique look and feel and mapping that Venere has built. We were also very interested in Venere’s terrific inventory in Southern Europe and your success in building out your hotel supply.
I’d like to see Venere aggressively expand not only in its core European markets, but also into Eastern Europe, Asia and the Americas.
What is your favorite travel destination?
Lake Como – I love being able to hike up in the beautiful hills and coming down to a great meal with great wine!