In its attempt to own more of the traveler experience from start to finish, AccorHotels is leveraging the power of its loyalty program — something its peers, no doubt, will also want to do going forward.
In February, Skift broke the news about an upcoming AccorHotels pilot program that the Paris-based company is launching today: selling flight and hotel packages on its website.
Partnering with MisterFly, a Paris-based online travel agency specializing in airline tickets and flight-hotel packages, AccorHotels is enabling guests to book hotel and flight packages, and they can choose from more than 200 AccorHotels properties in 30 destinations worldwide. The feature caters mostly to leisure travelers, the chain believes.
Flights choices come from multiple airlines, both network carriers and low-cost, and the booking engine will automatically suggest the best flight schedule for the consumer. However, travelers can also change the flight options, and choose exactly which flights or airlines they wish to book, with the package cost adjusting automatically.
This pilot program is launching first in France, and then in the UK, with other countries to follow.
Romain Roulleau, AccorHotels senior vice president of e-commerce and digital services, said the new service will be “massively promoted” in those markets, although he didn’t say how much of a financial or tech investment this represents.
“There are lots of destinations where we can sell the hotel only,” said Roulleau. “But there are lots of destinations where customers are also looking for the flight and preferring for someone to package this and, if consumers want this, especially for leisure destinations, we need to do this to bring the full value proposition to our consumers.”
Roulleau added, “The key aspect of our strategy is to [provide a] larger scope of solutions — being able to accompany our guests all along the journey from each step — but every time guaranteeing what we propose.”
His statement echoed what Kevin Frid, AccorHotels COO for North and Central America, told Skift earlier this year.
“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.”
How This Is Different
Having a hotel company sell flights on its own brand.com site, or in tandem with a hotel booking, isn’t something that’s necessarily groundbreaking, to be sure.
Marriott, for example, has partnered with Expedia to do just that with its Vacations by Marriott packages.
But the significance of AccorHotels’ new pilot is its curated portfolio, and the fact that there are more opportunities for earning more loyalty points than if you were to book a Vacations by Marriott package, for example.
“Customers that are part of our Le Club AccorHotels loyalty program earn points on the value of the hotel from day one and will soon also earn points on the whole package value, including the flight value,” Roulleau said.
By comparison, the total number of loyalty points a guest can earn from booking a Vacations by Marriott package is 5,000 Marriott Rewards points. Marriott gives the member these 5,000 points four to six weeks after the completion of the trip.
With AccorHotels’ flight and hotel packages, however, its 33 million LeClub Accor loyalty members instantly earn points on the value of the hotel portion of the package and later, they also receive additional loyalty points based on the entire value of the package. They can also earn airline loyalty program points on the airline they fly.
Because these are packages, guests who book them aren’t told exactly what portion of the total cost is for the hotel and what portion is for the flight (or train, as Eurostar travel is also included in this). AccorHotels calculates the number of points earned behind the scenes.
For the initial pilot, only AccorHotels-branded properties, ranging from midscale to luxury, will be featured in the packages. But the chain plans to later add Fairmont, Raffles, Swissotel, and alternative accommodations brands such as onefinestay and Oasis.
The addition of the Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissotel brands also hinges on the eventual integration of the Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program into Accor’s own LeClub AccorHotels program, which Roulleau said should be completed by next year.
But Will Customers Be Convinced to Book?
Roulleau said Accor decided to test this pilot first in France and the UK primarily because European travelers are generally more accustomed to booking packaged travel than Americans, for example.
“The [vacation travel] package approach is not the cultural norm for Americans,” he said. “But it is very much the norm for European consumers.”
The chain plans to eventually roll out the pilot to the U.S. and to Asia-Pacific, however.
And when asked if he thinks the packages will be enticing enough for price-conscious consumers, Rolleau said he wasn’t concerned about having to convince consumers they’re getting the best price with these new packages.
“People are going to shop around anyway,” he said. “They are going to check the hotel price on its own on AccorHotels.com or any site that distributes our hotels, and then they will go on a metasearch to find out the best price for those flights. And then they will calculate the sum. It’s very easy to see. When they see our price, they’ll see it’s much cheaper than booking these separately. And on top of this, you earn loyalty points.”
Roulleau also said it purposely chose to work with a company like MisterFly to put the packages together because “they are experts at getting the best price for each segment” and the fact that they “work with all airlines.” MisterFly, which is only two-years-old, is responsible for providing the flight and hotel packages found on Vente-Privee, a French flash sales e-tailer. AccorHotels is the company’s first hotel partner.
Roulleau said that this kind of partnership also gives Accor the flexibility to approach individual airlines to act as partners on special discounts, incentives, or promotions, too.
He added that the user experience of booking these packages isn’t like a traditional hotel booking engine, but something that more resembles a metasearch engine.
These flight-and-hotel packages will also work nicely with other components of AccorHotels’ current ecosystem of services.
VeryChic, a flash sales site that was just acquired by AccorHotels last month, for example, will also feature these packages on its platform and will be “linked together” with AccorHotels.com, but the flash-sale campaigns won’t replace these permanent packages, Rouelleau said.
And French and UK consumers who use MoodMatch to pick and choose a hotel based on their type of desired trip can also book these packages, if their chosen hotel happens to be one of the 200 included in the packages.
No doubt, this pilot program is building upon the foundation of recent investments and acquisitions AccorHotels has made just within the last year, all in an effort to transform itself into a new type of hospitality company that isn’t solely just concerned with providing travelers with a place to spend the night.
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Photo credit: AccorHotels has partnered with MisterFly to sell flight and hotel travel packages on its own website. AccorHotels / AccorHotels