Marriott signs 2 more online travel sellers

Expedia and Hotels.com to sell rooms nationwide

February 04, 2004|By Jerry W. Jackson | Jerry W. Jackson,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Adding momentum to the trend in online booking, Marriott International Inc. said yesterday that it has signed an agreement with Expedia and Hotels.com to allow those Web-based travel sellers to market Marriott rooms nationwide.

The Washington, D.C.-based hotel company has been an industry leader in selling rooms through its Web site, but lately has added third-party sellers. It signed a similar agreement late last year with Travelocity.

Marriott said the latest agreement with two more major online sellers is a "win-win" for the company, individual hotels and the traveling public.

"This benefits everyone," by broadening the reach of participating brands, said spokesman John Wolf.

`It makes sense'

Industry specialists said they are not surprised that Marriott is allowing greater access to online sellers, where consumers increasingly have been turning for travel deals in recent years.

"It makes sense. You need to be where the consumer does business," said Gary Sain, executive vice president and partner in Yesawich, Pepperdine and Brown, an Orlando-based leisure industry consulting and marketing firm.

Sain said Marriott and other top chains are trying to build brand loyalty and drive consumers to their own sites, but can't afford to ignore the growing numbers of shoppers who go online to compare prices among different brands.

"If you go to Marriott's Web site, you can't compare" prices to other brands, Sain said. "That's what Expedia and the Hotels.com of the world allow you to do."

Lori Raleigh, executive director of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants in Naples, Fla., said Marriott's move is a "natural evolution" and concession to the changing marketplace.

"Any initiative to generate incremental business is the name of the game," she said.

Knowledgeable hotel operators such as Marriott, Raleigh said, will find ways to manage yield by room type - selling certain types of rooms - through different channels.

"You may be able to move some rooms through online sites that you can't through other channels," Raleigh said.

Deal is companywide

Individual franchise-owned Marriott properties have been able to sell rooms through Expedia and other sites in the past, but the new agreement is companywide.

The deal also allows Marriott to develop a direct connection to the online sites to allow the company to manage inventory and rates.

Marriott manages or franchises more than 2,600 lodging properties worldwide under a range of brands, such as JW Marriott, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, Residence Inn, Courtyard, Townplace Suites, Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Suites.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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