Issue 2001-7 - Thursday, April 19, 2001
|Andbook.com: Accor, Hilton and Forte form a joint venture to conquer the online European hotel trade. Here is the antithesis of the Orbitz's project|
The site was launched quietly and even very discreetly at the beginning of April 2001.
support this way of doing things as it gives founders time to get the
site running in a technical point of view, but also to test it in real
size, which allows them to correct the bugs that are bound to happen before
the site gets too big, as this will no doubt create other types of problems.
All these elements contribute to give andbook.com Web site an online European positioning that not only allowed the site to be launched quietly but also with great chances of success.
Indeed, if we compare it with Orbitz.com, the site that was just given the green light by the American DOT (Department of Transportation), differences prove rather important.
Orbitz was created in a state of crisis, in order to face up to a "threat" coming from online travel agencies in the eTourism sector.
Orbitz's project was first called T2, a cute little name that meant Terminator2 compared to its main competitive target, Travelocity, and its main motivations consisted in trying to resist a hostile online world.
This last element, which is based on thin grounds, is the reason why I still wonder about the project's future chances of success.
Indeed, this type of motivation might well appear far too weak when the time comes to witness the internal differences of opinion that are bound to happen between the founders, as they have always been in competition with each other.
What's more, the economic slowdown that is expected to take place in the US, and its consequent slowdown in the airline traffic volume, should not make life any easier for the different associates involved in the Orbitz's project.
As far as andbook.com is concerned, it is quite a different matter.
First of all, the actors involved in Andbook.com Web site appear to be much more complementary than they are direct competitors. As these three big hotel chains prove very different, they manage to offer their customers a diversified range of products, in nearly any hotel category.
In this case, competition is not quite as frontal as it is with Delta, Northwest, American Airlines or even United Airlines.
The contradictory nature of the two sites brings forward a second difference: the neutral aspect of the products displayed.
In andbook.com's case, these problems are of a different sort.
Indeed, even though andbook does offer other hotels than Accor, Hilton and Forte, the three owners get their properties listed at the top of the list when the system responds to a search request, when the other hotels are only displayed at the end of the list.
Partner hotels get a special treatment compared to the hotels that belong to some other chains; indeed, owners are only expected to pay a reduced commission when non-partner hotels will have to pay normal commission.
This shows that the approach is completely different.
If Orbitz mainly aims for a wide audience, with a view to compete with Travelocity and Expedia, andbook.com mainly targets business travellers. The site's tag line is the following: "the business traveller's hotel network".
On this simple criterion, Orbitz positions itself as a very ambitious project which will require considerable financial means if it wants to find a niche in the American market that already proves well structured.
On a technical point of view, the site andbook.com opted for the GDS technology from Amadeus and Leapnet implemented the Broadvision One-to-One on an oracle 8i back-end platform in order to build a robust Internet booking engine.
The site is already available in three languages: English, German and French.
The 4.000 properties drawn from the founding partners' portfolios are already listed on andbook.com, together with a further 50.000, accessible via the GDS Amadeus.
The site first intends to focus on small and midsize entreprises, but it will extend its offer in the future and plans to add airline and car bookings by the end of 2001.
In any case, the stakes are high for andbook.com as, according to Andbook's chief executive officer, Michael Madison, 25 to 30 percent of hotel bookings should be done through the Internet in a few years.