Hotel Chains Plan To Link Inventory To The Internet - InformationWeek

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Hotel Chains Plan To Link Inventory To The Internet

Finally checking in with a major E-commerce initiative all their own, five of the nation's 10 largest hotel chains are quietly making plans to share technology that would link their inventory to the Internet.

Execs from Bass, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood Hotels have been meeting for weeks on a project dubbed Honest Broker. The goal: to build consensus on a singular technology platform for the online distribution of the 1.4 million rooms they offer for rent each day at their combined 7,000 hotels. While there may well be an Honestbroker.com consumer megasite at some point, the focus is more on developing an industry-standard distribution system that everyone, including competitors, can share, says a spokesman.

Hotels have traditionally relied on global distribution systems developed by and for the airlines, such as Sabre and Galileo International, to link their products with travel agents and the Internet. But the systems charge about $3.50 for each booking and cancellation--and their hotel capabilities are clunky and slow. "We're talking about developing a better way to offer inventory, pricing, and content online--not just for us, but for other sites and travel agencies as well," the spokesman says. "We want to take full advantage of the Web and offer consumers the best possible experience in the least expensive way."

If it all sounds kind of pie in the sky, well, it is. No final decisions have been made, the spokesman emphasizes. Perhaps they should get moving, though. Hotels lose 49% of their online bookings to general travel sites such as Travelocity, Priceline, and Expedia, says Phocuswright.com analyst Lorraine Silva. "But whether an HonestBroker.com would have the same branding and marketing clout remains to be seen."

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