Priceline buys hotel marketing platform Buuteeq

Interesting move from Priceline with news that it has acquired US-based startup Buuteeq, a full-service digital marketing brand for hotels.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Priceline says the company will operate as an independent brand within the group.

The company (TLabs here) was founded by former Microsoft executives Forest Key, Adam Brownstein and Brian Saab.

It initially got off the ground in February 2010 with early backing to the tune of $1.4 million via its founders, angel investors and Equitas. The company later raised a further $3.5 million in January 2011 and $2 million in February 2012, on both occasions from Mike Galgon and Geoff Entress.

The biggest investment round came in late-2012 when it captured $10 million from Concur and Madrona.

The idea behind Buuteeq is that it helps hotels create and manage their websites, mobile and social channels, as well as promotions and reservations, all from a single platform.

Priceline president and CEO Darren Huston says:

“Buuteeq has built an innovative, cloud-based marketing platform that we see playing a key role in helping us deliver even more value to our global accommodations partners worldwide.”

By April of this year, CEO and co-founder Forest Key was claiming some 6,000 hotels had signed up to use the service, coinciding with a large increase in the number of employees to 130.

buuteeq forest key

In the acquisition announcement, Key says:

“As the global leader in online accommodations, The Priceline Group houses the vision, strategy and expertise to guide our mission to deliver a transformative digital marketing solution to hotel owners, hotel brands, and management teams.”

Priceline’s motivation for buying the company is pretty clear – with Buuteeq it is arguably trying to cover off the one part of the hotel booking ecosystem that it can’t control with a consumer-facing brand, allowing hoteliers to improve their web services and presence to attract those consumers who choose to go direct.

In short: help consumers find and book hotels on Priceline and (as an intermediary), have B2B services in the shape of Buuteeq for hotel owners.

Priceline’s acquisition strategy, under the tutelage of Glenn Fogel, head of worldwide planning and strategy and EVP of corporate development, is not prolific but generally makes a big splash when it takes place.

The purchase of Kayak for $1.8 billion in late-2012 captured plenty of attention but most in the industry with longer memories cite the acquisition of as a pivotal moment in the history of the company, and one which turned the online hotel sector on its head forever.

Car rental service TravelJigsaw was bought for an undisclosed fee in May 2010. The service has been re-branded to RentalCars.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Abel Aaron

    Congratulations to Forest!

  2. Nick

    Well done Buuteeq, congratulations to the whole team. It’s a great investment for hotels to develop their own apps to handle more direct sales and increase interaction with their guests. We’ve still seen a significant demand for hotelier clients coming to us requiring rapid deployment of app solutions.

  3. Joan Sanz

    Smart move for Priceline to me anyways.

  4. Joan Sanz

    I believe that it also about Social. Buuteeq had been very careful developing strategies to combine the social Media part with the direct online distribution. Beside, buying startups nowadays it’s becoming a regular behavior from this huge direct suppliers.

  5. jack

    or maybe priceline aim is exactly to contain direct sales channel by removing out of the market those players that are helping hotels to increase their direct sales vs OTAs…

  6. Anil Varghese

    …and now hotels looking at growing direct bookings will talk to an OTA! We are living an interesting time…

  7. Patrick Landman

    Patrick @ Xotels

    @ Robert + Joe,

    Indeed a smart move. And I love Buuteeq, its a great company.

    Question is, do you want your 3rd party distributor to control your direct sales channel.

    • Joe Buhler

      Depends how you define “control”.

    • Michael

      Absolutely not, and I love buuteeq….

      But basically they were the people rescuing us from being kidnapped, and like some surreal horror movie the people rescuing us are taking us back to the kidnappers.

    • Anil Varghese

      Great move for Buuteeq!
      But a valid concern for 6000 hotels – do they really want their ‘direct’ booking data in control of an OTA?

  8. RobertKCole

    Leadership of the major hotel brands – and the small ones as well – should take note. What happens if a relationship with a group like Priceline begins to create more value to a hotel owner than a traditional hotel representation or brand relationships?

    An extremely smart move that gives PCLN visibility to the deep-web source for inventory, rates and business rules that drive hotel distribution.

    6,000 hotels (more than any hotel group except Wyndham and Choice) just got adopted into a culture that is maniacally focused on conversion, develops great mobile experiences, embraces big data and kicks ass on search marketing.

    Time for all hotel brands to raise their game.

    • Michael

      But now Priceline owns SaaS hotel websites that are not owned by the hotels. This might include data? Priceline OTA now owns and controls hotel websites and data? Can you see how this is a nerve wracking conflict of interests? If everything is about data, what are they seeing about our hotels that we can’t see? I am completely nervous about this.

    • Pedro Colaco

      Hi Robert,

      You got me thinking about Priceline as a soft-brand replacing traditional repcos like Trust/Worldhotels… Then I quickly dismissed the idea 🙂

      • RobertKCole

        Pedro, I would be fairly certain Priceline has no aspirations of becoming any form of hotel brand – for the same reason Google does not want to become an OTA. Why bother? Much greater operational complexity and labor resources involved, yielding much lower margins.

        However, it does raise the interesting question of how hotel brands create value.

        I recall Cornell marketing professor Leo Renaghan at a HEDNA meeting in the late 1990’s asking the audience “What is the true product differentiation between a Hilton, Sheraton and a Radisson?” (Crickets were the deafening response to his non-hypothetical query…)

        Leo was not being condescending or cruel. He cited an example of a hotel in upstate New York that had flown all three flags over the prior decade, all along maintaining the same management. No inherent, material changes occurred with the property at each transition aside from the signage. Occupancy didn’t jump or plummet, and rates didn’t crater or skyrocket.

        Those flag changes didn’t seem to make much of a difference to the consumer, so it begs the question of how does a hotel brand fundamentally create value? For consumers or owners?

        On the ownership side, there may certainly be fee differentials, as well as the ability to attract business.
        However, if efficiently aggregating demand for the hotel owner is a key aspect (as it should be) what happens if an OTA does it better than a hotel brand?

        That concept was rather publicly tested in the storied battle of IHG & Expedia in 2004. As opposed to agreeing to what IHG leadership apparently felt were overbearing demands, IHG convinced its thousands of independent franchisees to collectively cut off Expedia’s significant contribution to IHG’s transient leisure room night traffic.

        The OTAs learned a valuable lesson back then. It’s not an US v. Them game (although many hoteliers still don’t see it that way.) The OTAs want to become an inseparable part of the hotel industry’s DNA and the ability to accomplish that is grounded in superior access to inventory, rates & content fueled by superior business intelligence.

        Buuteeq gives Priceline those rates, inventory and content for 6,000 properties that can get scaled up relatively easily. Priceline already has the analytics – it will be interesting to see what Priceline can do to create value for the hotels from an SEO/SEM & conversion perspective – I would guess a lot.

  9. Joe Buhler

    Looks like a Smart B2B move for Priceline to me.


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