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The Priceline Group acquired Buuteeq and Hotel Ninjas earlier this year as the company seeks to become a tech provider for hotels, and its little-noticed work for the websites of Marriott International’s brands is a harbinger of what’s going to happen next.
Although it hasn’t received much publicity, a spokesperson for Booking.com, a Priceline Group subsidiary, confirms that it powers websites for “the entire Marriott global list of properties in Italian, Russian, Arabic and Brazilian Portuguese languages.”
The Booking.com relationship with Courtyard by Marriott, in particular, has been “longstanding,” the spokesperson says, and Booking.com supports the search and booking functions on all Marriott International sites in those four foreign languages.
For example, when users visit Marriott.it and click the search button they navigate to a Marriott-branded site powered by Booking.com where they can continue searching and booking in Italian.
A spokesperson for Marriott International declined to comment on the chain’s Booking.com relationship.
“We are always looking for ways in which we can better assist our hotel partners and we are exploring this type of integration for our other partners, as well,” the Booking.com spokesperson says.
Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston tells Skift that in the future Booking.com sales personnel will establish their routine distribution relationships with hotels, but might inquire if the hotel needs help in making its website more sophisticated, too.
A Booking.com specialist could then arrange for a follow-up call with the hotelier to explain the range of new services that Booking.com plans on providing to the hotel industry, Huston says.
Hotels Deserve Their Share of Direct Bookings
Establishing new relationships with hotels as a technology provider doesn’t mean that Booking.com would benefit from all the bookings from these expanded ties, Huston said, adding that hotels deserve their fair share of direct bookings.
It also wouldn’t be hard to envision that Booking.com could transition from powering search and booking in foreign languages for hotels, as it currently does for Marriott International websites, to being the behind-the-scenes force for all of a chain’s websites.
With that expanded relationship with hotels, the business model would undoubtedly get some tweaks, too, although so far details have been sparse.
You can expect to see some announcements and details about the Priceline Group’s new business line as a tech provider to hotels early next year.
Hotels will then face the perennial question: Should they support an already-powerful distributor in the name of efficiency and enhanced services at the risk of making the strong even stronger?
The hotel industry would thus have a new dilemma to grapple with.