Hyatt Hotels Corp. says it's expanding its online inventory beyond just hotel rooms and will begin selling airline tickets and car rentals on its Web site, under a new contract with Sabre Group affiliate GetThere.com.
While online airline sites have sold hotel rooms for years, turning the tables is a sticky issue that puts the hotel industry in competition with the travel agency channel. Hyatt, for example, gets 25% its customers from travel agent referrals. Still, the company says the 2% of customers who now buy online come from the base that has always called the company direct. "I don't see these as being travel agency customers, but rather the direct booking customer who's always used the phone," says Ty Helms, Hyatt's VP of sales. Offering airline tickets is just a "customer service vehicle."
Good thing, says Philip Wolf, president of travel consulting firm PhoCusWright. "If it's all about making the site more robust and not about generating a real revenue stream, fine. But I don't think there's a real business model," he says. "The airlines have spent tens of millions of dollars to build their brands, and people don't think of Hyatt when it comes to airline tickets."