Why is Expedia banning Haiti?

Haiti’s tourism sector is up in arms over recent travel warnings from the U.S., Canada and France that have led to at least one booking company — Expedia — blacklisting the country’s two international airports and hotels as illegal.

People seeking to book flights and hotel rooms on Expedia and subsidiaries Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire and CheapTickets are being blocked from doing so following violent protests that erupted on Feb. 7. Though Haitians were shuttered in for more than a week, with schools and businesses closed, international carriers like American, Spirit and JetBlue kept flying.

But Expedia didn’t seem to care…

The block, said an Expedia spokesperson, is linked to the State Department Level Four travel warning.

“Once governmental advice reaches a certain level of travel concern, we take action to close off destinations on our sites,” said Philip Minardi, director of communications for the Expedia Group. The block will remain in effect until the advisory lifts, he said.

Here is the full story, I find this troubling.  On top of everything else, State Department Level warnings are inefficiently sticky.


Surely a red sticky banner at the top of the page (with a concise warning and a permalink to the govt page) would be a better solution for users viewing regions with these temporary high warning levels.

The user should be able to choose -- and a travel site should help the user make an informed choice.

This reeks of top-down CYA by twitchy executives.

Why can't Expedia do whatever they think is appropriate?
They're not preventing anyone from traveling, are they?
It's certainly not their fault that the US is so litigious.

No, you see the free market is so important at this web site that no company should be allowed to act as if the free market actually exists,

People, being "troubled" by something isn't the same as thinking it should be banned.

You can support the free market and still criticize how some companies choose to use that freedom--just like disagreeing with someone's opinion doesn't make you anti-free-speech.

Well, Prof. Cowen does provide a reason for his 'troubling' perspective on top of everything else, which is that the State Department is apparently not to be trusted to make efficiently sticky decisions when it involves company deciding what to do in the marketplace.

The funny thing is, for loyal readers of this web site, the real term of art for this post would actually be 'mood affiliation.'

"The funny thing is, for loyal readers of this web site, the real term of art for this post would actually be 'mood affiliation.'"

An astute reader would understand that 'mood affiliation' applies to every post and comment.

The most astute readers would understand that prior is the avatar and apotheosis of what "mood affiliation" means. His mood is pissy anti-Cowenism, and he is affliated to it to the point of enslavement.

Always sad to see how Prof. Tabarrok is ignored, because I would have thought all that pissy anti-Tabarrokism was even more obvious.

I do believe all of the ideas you've introduced to your post.
They're really convincing and will certainly work.

Nonetheless, the posts are very short for starters.
May just you please extend them a little from next time?

Thank you for the post.

Don't you think "banning" is an interesting word for "dropping service to?"

I think it is a good catch that "de-platforming" has become instinctively seen as censorship on the right.

This has almost everything to do with protecting the company against the lawsuit.

I blame Obama!

As Tyler said travel advisories from the State Department are sticky. If you read today about "don't travel to Haiti because it's risky", it's quite probable that you'll keep this on mind for months or years while the risk may go down in a few weeks/months.

For Expedia is more convenient to pretend that Haiti simply doesn't exist and start selling vacation passages once the risk has passed instead of scaring the clients for a long time with the red warning. They can activate Port au Prince at any time on their site once things calm down, they cannot erase your memory once you get the bad news. The options for Expedia are to lose income for short time, or to lose income for a very long time.

The reaction of the hotel owners may not be optimal. Due to their vocal complaining now everybody knows Haiti became even riskier. If they've just talked in private to Expedia, we would never know about the popular revolt and even consider vacations over there.

During anti-government protests, 5 Americans are stopped by the Haitian police carrying some guns and the guys had the audacity to tell the police they were on "a government mission".

The arrest of these guys is the source of thousands of rumors among the anti-government protesters. Are they hired assassins targeting the prime minister? Are they foreign mercenaries hired to kill anti-government protesters? You can follow the whole gossip on the French speaking newspaper from Port au Prince https://lenouvelliste.com/article/198319/dossier-des-huit-hommes-armes-arretes-deux-proches-du-pouvoir-indexes

The State Department travel warnings may not be the best solution. These days an American on Haiti is not only a rich tourist to be robbed, but an enemy of the people.

Summarizing, the "Haiti's tourism sector is up in arms" against the US State Department and Expedia while 5 Americans are jailed. Perhaps the level 4 travel advisory is handy leverage in the negotiations to free those guys. Realpolitik?

I think Tyler prefers to stay above gossip and conspiracies to discuss the the actions of Expedia in the context of economics. But, can you really take politics out of the model while the model is still useful to assess reality?

As the American regime collapses, the American regime becomes more and more aggressive. It has been seen before. The Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the Argentinian generals in the Malvinas, the czarist regime in WW I, the French regime in Vietnam, etc.

Soon the glorious sons of Brazil shall march forth in their hundreds and thousands to crush the infidel Columbians beneath their bootheels.

They will even learn to speak Spanish properly.

The worl will learn to speak Portuguese.

The responsibility of the airline ends when passengers safely exit the aircraft in Haiti, while the responsibility of Expedia doesn't end until passengers safely depart Haiti on the return flight. My question: why do people travel to places with a known high degree of risk? What about all those people who gather at the airport for a flight to an area that is experiencing blizzard conditions that are supposed to last for days. Do they like waiting, and sleeping, at the airport? Traveling to a small country, Haiti, knowing that the country is experiencing riots makes no sense either. My guess is that these folks are blissfully ignorant, ignorant of the weather and ignorant of the riots in Haiti. Cowen suggests a simple warning. There are warnings on cigarettes ("you smoke this and you die a horrible death") but millions smoke. I suppose Expedia et al. have determined that their customers are too ignorant to make decisions for themselves, and that warnings alone won't insulate Expedia et al. from liability.

How do you figure that Expedia is liable for the entire trip? They are just a booking service. This makes no sense.

This is from Expedia terms and conditions, the caps are from them:


Their business model is to show pics of the sea, sand and coconut trees to sell plane+hotel while totally not advising you to go there. Their legal risk is almost zero because the all caps sentence is on their terms and conditions. But, do they really want the customers to be aware of risk?

And he’s a lawyer!

Negligence. Sure, the disclaimer might be a defense to sending someone to a hotel in a riot-torn area where the person is killed or injured, but the disclaimer in Axa's comment does not specifically disclaim responsibility for Expedia's negligence (disclaimer's for someone's negligence typically must include negligence in the disclaimer). Besides, does Expedia really want to get the reputation of sending customers to places where the customers are killed or injured. Again, I point out in my comment that most people are blissfully ignorant of the risks.

I lean towards raywards opinion here. Expedia may not be liable, but if there are any lawsuits then the lawyers are going to hit up both the airline and Expedia. Then Expedia will have to pay the legal bills and take a PR hit.

What is missing from the analysis is how much money Expedia makes from flights to Haiti. It's quite possible that they make very little money from this small route and it's just not worth the hassle factor. How much money do we think Expedia is losing here? $10K a month maybe. Possibly far less.

If only one were able to use another travel booking site or book with airlines and hotels directly.

But doesn't Expedia also own Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Trivago, and CheapTickets? Do these also block you from booking a trip to Haiti?

Right, that was the question that came to my mind: are the other travel sites filtering Haiti?

Kayak.com seems to show Haiti just like any other destination.

On Travelocity's website, I can't get "Haiti" nor "Port-au-Prince" to show up as one of the choices.

But a google search for "flights seattle to haiti" turned up all sorts of links including this one to Expedia's page, which seems to list all sorts of flights.

So even Expedia seems to be filtering only certain types of searches. Used in other ways, one seemingly can book a flight to Haiti using Expedia. (I did not go so far as to actually book a flight.)

bigger concerns - https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/haiti-demonstrations-port-au-prince-hospital-1.5024003?cmp=newsletter-news-digests-canada-and-world-morning

I don't see the issue here Tyler.

People can still book direct. And this is a classic risk vs reward scenario. Expedia would take on some amount of additional legal risk by allowing bookings to Haiti but probably doesn't make much money off of the route.

In issuing travel warnings, State's first priority has been and should be the safety of American citizens, not the health of foreign tourism industries. I think Expedia's reaction is an over-reaction, but you can't blame this on State. They are doing their job

Some people just go looking for trouble...and usually find it.

Comments for this post are closed