Skift Take

InterContinental Hotels Group has frequently been contrarian over the years when it comes to travel distribution. The chain recognizes that not all guests are brand loyal, and that it is wise to maintain healthy relationships with online travel agencies and metasearch engines.

InterContinental Hotels Group, which counts brands ranging from Holiday Inn to InterContinental Hotels and Kimpton in its portfolio, will announce the creation of a 17th brand next week, an official said.

Speaking at the HotelBeds MarketHub Americas conference in Cancun on Wednesday, IHG’s Philippe Garnier, the chain’s vice president of third-party distribution, didn’t reveal many details about the new brand, but said it would be in the suite space.

At Skift Forum Europe in London April 30, CEO Keith Barr talked about the imminent brand launch, adding that it’s vital to be strategic about brand additions to avoid brand bloat.

While many of IHG’s competitors, including Hilton and Marriott, have been running campaigns and emphasizing direct-bookings, where guests find the lowest rates for loyalty program members on the chains’ websites, Garnier in Cancun said IHG recognizes that not everyone prefers or is able to book its properties direct.

“We like direct bookings,” Garnier told around 600 attendees at the convention center at the Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres resort. “Shock, surprise. But we’re happy to engage with third parties as well.”

Garnier said he welcomed the fact that there has been a deescalation of late in the rhetoric about an alleged booking war between hotels and online travel agencies. It’s not just a matter of director booking being good and third-party booking being bad, he added.

One area of concern, however, is there needs to be more of a “reconciliation” between third-party bookings and the needs of IHG’s loyalty program. “We are thinking about it,” Garnier said. He added that the chain doesn’t have a magic wand to address the problem and the relationship between the two needs to evolve.

One theme running through the conference is the convergence of hotels and alternative accommodations, as outlined in a Skift keynote earlier in the day, and as detailed in the Skift Megatrend, Everything Is Merging in Hospitality.

The Skift keynote detailed how in the last month alone, Airbnb announced it will open a Manhattan Hotel, Marriott decided to get into homesharing, Airbnb invested in Oyo hotels, and Oyo acquired vacation rental property manager @LeisureGroup.

Garnier of IHG said IHG is looking at homesharing but has to figure out how it would fit in given the fact that its guests enjoy a fairly consistent experience across its existing 16 — and soon-to-be 17 — brands.

In other news, Cliff Galitz, partner development manager for Google Travel, said consumers looking for a hotel peruse 45 “digital touchpoints” when researching a hotel, up from 39 in 2017. The finding, which was part of consumer research done with McKinsey, makes the consumer booking journey more complex, he said. That research takes place in 60 sessions over 36 days on average, Galitz said.

Some 70 percent of travelers have no brand in mind when starting a Google search for a hotel, Galitz said, adding that it is imperative for marketers to get more involved in the inspiration side of travel planning to get higher in the traveler consideration set.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Philippe Garnier,  IHG’s vice president of third-party distribution, as saying he loved third-party bookings.

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Tags: alternative accommodations, direct booking, google, homesharing, hotelbeds, ihg, intercontinental hotels group, otas

Photo credit: Pictured is an InterContinental Hotels Group lobby breakfast area. The chain plans to debut the concept behind its 17th hotel brand next week. InterContinental Hotels Group

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