When it comes to Orbitz Total Price Hotel, you can lead online travel agencies to water, but you can't make them drink.
Six months ago, Orbitz introduced this new mode of displaying hotel pricing, where consumers view the base rate plus "taxes and fees" up-front, but none of Orbitz's OTA competitors has copied this bow to transparency.
For years, OTAs have played bait and switch with consumers on hotel pricing because travelers only learn the true cost of the room, with booking fees tacked on, when they are ready to book. Comparing base rates doesn't really tell the story.
Addressing a gaggle of bloggers at an Orbitz bloggers' summit in its Chicago headquarters last week, Orbitz Worldwide CEO Barney Harford said, "I am a little surprised" that no competitor has matched Total Price Hotel.
I guess it really isn't too surprising, however, because Harford conceded that the policy "maybe is marginally negative" to business in the short term.
In other words, when consumers view the total price, they may scoot away to book the room on Hotels.com, Priceline or, more likely, directly with the hotel.
So, although Orbitz has provided some differentiation on the hotel beat with total price and Orbitz Price Assurance, the other OTAs haven't followed because they see total price as detrimental to their hotel businesses.
Harford says total price has "created some distance" between Orbitz and the competition, adding that it is "something that takes a bit of belief."
He sees it as Orbitz taking on a consumer focus in a bid to transform Orbitz into the place to book hotels.
Where Harford loses me is in this following statement.
"My guess is there is a bit of Orbitz envy out there," Harford says.
Sadly, if there was much envy, then Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity would change their hotel displays, as well.
And, Expedia and Priceline assuredly don't envy the job that Orbitz must undertake to gain some market share in hotels.
But, I love the fact that Orbitz is displaying total price. It is a great move from a consumer standpoint.
Still, all of the OTAs, including Orbitz, have a way to go regarding transparency.
None of them break out "taxes and fees" in merchant hotel sales.
Exposing the fees they charge -- and providing more transparency into the net rates they get from hotels -- would probably be, as Harford put it about total price, "marginally negative."
And then some.
[Full disclosure: Orbitz paid my -- and other bloggers' -- air and hotel tab to attend the bloggers' summit.]