Accor has rebranded itself into AccorHotels while also opening up its booking platform to independent hoteliers.
This bold move is taking the fight to online travel agencies by giving independents another place to load their inventory.
This means that non-affiliated independent hotels have a new channel which can be found at AccorHotels.com, the new name and home for Europe's largest hotel group.
By increasing inventory, the idea is that traffic will follow. Even if the user is not booking with an AccorHotel, at least they are not offering loyalty to an OTA.
The bet is that this then translates to better margins by reducing the volume of bookings leaking over to OTAs, and thus making a dent in the 10-20% commissions paid by most hotels to the middlemen OTAs.
It also offers some additional revenue from bookings to AccorHotels that would have gone to OTAs in the form of commissions.
Regarding the new positioning, AccorHotels Chairman and CEO Sébastien Bazin said:
Accor becomes AccorHotels and proudly re-assumes its role as a pioneer hotelier that never stops innovating and surprising, at the cutting edge of digital technology, but while remaining a hotelier, first and foremost.
While there's no certainty of success — especially given the smaller pool of hotels when compared to the likes of Priceline and Expedia — the hotel group is spending heavily on its vision, purchasing Fastbooking last year to further deliver on its ambitions in being a B2B software for independents.
AccorHotels has earmarked Euro 225 million on its digital initiatives up until 2018, in addition to the Euro 25 million that it has committed to this specific channel enhancement.
If the channel is enhanced as envisioned, the company says it will boost properties from 3,700 today to 10,000 by 2018. That's only a fraction of the 500k+ that most of the OTAs feature — and there's still no word on the percentage cut that AccorHotels would take from hoteliers listed on site.
In an email to Tnooz, travel technology consultant Robert Cole frames the challenges facing major hotel groups in an OTA world with one core question.
So the burning question – is what is most powerful – brand or distribution?
The news accompanies a refresh of the company's mobile app, which has become a full-featured travel companion that includes CityGuides for 70 cities, a travel assistant with trip information, in-hotel services such as ordering dining or spa treatments, loyalty account info, in-app newspapers and online check-ins.
By creating an outstanding digital experience, there is another clear reason for users to book directly with the hotel group.
NB: Ibis hotel image courtesy Shutterstock.