Priceline.com President and CEO Jeffery Boyd weighed in on the issue at the 2009 Citi Technology Conference last week, arguing that metasearch "didn't live up to the hype."
Boyd has been a persistent metasearch critic, but Priceline long has participated in its advertising channels.
The Priceline CEO conceded that Kayak "has done very well," but he believes its success is more a testament to its user interface and technology than to metasearch having a superior business model when compared with that of online travel agencies.
With all of the OTAs having eliminated flight-booking fees, there now is "no magic bullet" when shopping at 100 websites for airline tickets, Boyd said.
He acknowledged that metasearch represents some threat to OTAs, but the key test for metasearch websites, in general, and for Microsoft's Bing Travel, in particular, will be whether they will be able to continue to deliver qualified leads to OTA advertisers.
On the advertising theme, Boyd said Booking.com, Priceline's Europe-based lodging business, has probably left some money on the table by refusing to initiate a media business and adding a lot of non-hotel products.
Booking.com has avoided these distractions because the upside of expanding hotel inventory for European travelers in Eastern Europe, Asia and North America is so "great" and "important" that dabbling with cross-selling these non-hotel products would be unwise, Boyd said.
Booking.com, Boyd said, doesn't have exclusive hotel deals across-the-board with independent hotels, but in practice it often has exclusive availability for many properties as a distribution channel of choice because of the demand it can generate for a property in far-flung countries and because of the advantages of the retail model.
Turning to other issues, Boyd said travelers' hotel reviews, after they completed a stay at a property, are "an element of social networking that is very helpful," and he sees the scope of reviews expanding with photos and videos that will make them "more engaging."
Looking into his crystal ball, Boyd sees several other areas ripe for increased attention, too.
Trip planning and trip organization, as is the focus of TripIt, is an "open playing field," Boyd said.
In addition, mobile will be among the "most-impactful innovations," Boyd added.
Boyd argued that over time mobile offerings and consumer behavior will change so that some travelers will feel comfortable booking hotels "on the fly" with a mobile device once they arrive at a destination.
He said Priceline and others will introduce technology, which would ensure that travelers would find great inventory and deals once they pick up their bags at a destination airport.
I'll interject here that with the expected proliferation of Wi-Fi on board airlines, shopping for last-minute hotel deals may give on-board entertainment whole new meaning if Boyd is correct that a segment of consumers will be open to very-last-minute hotel offerings. Anyone for Verylastminute.com? Oh, sorry, it already exists.
"I'll get the hotel when I get there," is how Boyd envisions the new -- as yet unproven -- impulse.
But, Boyd has confidence in the shift.
"If you are there ready with a product to support it you will win," Boyd said. "If not, you are going to lose."
TripCase: Sabre's Case for Disruptive Mobile Strategy
Kayak's Hafner Awaits Google Hotels
Where in the World is the Orbitz Hotel Business Model?
Shermans Meter Blends New Hotel Review Cocktail
On Orbitz: Is Flight Metasearch Even Dead-er?