In what can only be described as a bold move, Shire Hotels has introduced price comparison functionality on its website displaying rates from big OTAs alongside its own.
In a bid to boost conversion the six-strong UK hotel group began pitting its own rates against those of intermediaries at the end of last year when it launched a new website.
Of course there is a lot of context here from the ongoing rate parity debacle across Europe to the desire from hoteliers to claw back control of inventory and not pay OTAs a commission for customers they would probably get anyway.
However, Shire's price comparison idea came from ecommerce marketing manager Sam Wilson who wanted to address a 25% increase in traffic year-on-year but no corresponding uplift in conversion.
Madness or genius? So far the jury seems to be leaning towards the latter as conversion rates are well into the double digits, not bad when you consider industry averages of around 4%.
Buy-in from management was instant and Wilson enlisted developers to put the price comparison element together, no mean feat he says.
It sits separate from the booking engine (provided by Travelclick) and works by showing the rate for one of Shire's hotels and enabling consumers to see similar rates offered by four intermediaries.
Wilson says the initiative is not about taking on the big boys but the hotel group does have a best rate guarantee and encourages consumers to ring if they a better rate is displayed by an intermediary.
He argues that if the psychology of consumers is to check rates with the hotel provider and then see if they can get it cheaper on an OTA, why not enable them to do that on the site.
"It's all about consumer choice and to increase conversion and pass more quality traffic on to the booking engine. If they're going to book via Expedia, they'll book via Expedia but I did not want them to go off our website and potentially book another hotel down the road.
"By us displaying all the prices of the OTAs we are being very transparent. They will have their own traffic and their own bookings but this is to get more conversion on our direct site."
Now that the functionality is up and running, hotel group is attracting interest from third parties about potentially adopting it but for the time-being it was developed for Shire's benefit.
And as to whether it's perpetuating the consumer tendency to shop around rather than fostering trust and loyalty in a brand, Wilson maintains that if people want to shop around they will but Shire has done the 'legwork' for them.
NB: Thanks to Sam Weston of Hotel Speak for the find.