AccorHotels is developing a reputation as being a bit of a pioneer.
Its latest move? Selling flights on AccorHotels.com in a pilot program that begins in Europe this spring.
Kevin Frid, COO of North & Central America for AccorHotels, told Skift about the new pilot program during an interview at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles in January.
“I think what AccorHotels is doing very successfully and being very forward-looking [about] is to keep offering more and more broader travel solutions to its customer base, which is in the tens of millions,” Frid explained. “For example, we’re about to launch where you can go on AccorHotels.com and book your flight and hotel room. We’re just about to launch it.”
Selling flights on a hotel’s brand.com site isn’t necessarily a new concept — other hotel companies do so with hotel and flight packages, for example — but the way in which AccorHotels is approaching flights is a bit different.
Instead of selling vacation packages, AccorHotels is working with specific airline partners and Frid said the way this will work is that it’s “not a package in the sense of a traditional package. It’s just two separate buys.”
[Editor’s Note: An AccorHotels spokesperson has clarified that the company is still exploring its options, and that AccorHotels is looking at the opportunity to propose packages including flights and hotels on its digital platform. At this stage, there is no ongoing pilot, but AccorHotels will provide more information on this project by the second quarter of 2017.]
“It’s no different than what you can see today in other sites,” Frid continued. “If you live in Paris and you are traveling to Berlin for the weekend and want to stay at the Swissotel in Berlin, you can go, ‘Oh I can book my flight too’ and go onto another button and then you can book the two together.”
The desire to add flight bookings on AccorHotels.com is motivated by the desire to make the site a true one-stop shop for travel.
“Our ultimate objective is you can go to AccorHotels.com for all your travel needs,” Frid said. “There’s no special name for it. Just simply another service being operated on one website to give you less reason to go to another website. That’s the real key. The other sites are not my enemy whether it be an OTA [online travel agency] or a metasearch like Kayak or whatever. Our AccorHotels.com is obviously our brand, and so if I can give you less reason to search elsewhere for what your needs are then that in itself is building loyalty.”
Pursuing this type of strategy isn’t singular to Accor, either. Late last year, rumors also swirled that Airbnb, the online home sharing marketplace, was also pondering a possible entry into selling flights in an effort to develop its brand as a more holistic travel “super brand.”
This isn’t the first time Accor has experimented with new distribution and booking strategies, either. In June 2015, the company began allowing independent hotels to list themselves on AccorHotels.com without having to be part of a soft brand.
AccorHotels’ Frid and its spokespeople didn’t divulge any additional details about the new pilot program, which is expected to debut closer to April. AccorHotels acknowledged that some parts of the pilot program may be subject to change, and that more news will be available closer to April.