A large number of airlines are missing out on valuable revenue by not devising an adequate online hotel sales strategy.
Daniel Hest, a senior director of business development and product marketing at Orbitz Worldwide, said many carriers only had a basic white label system and were not maximising this potentially lucrative channel.
In a presentation to airline executives at the Amadeus Airline Digital Conference in Madrid, Hest said: “Only a small group [of airlines] do an effective job selling high margin hotels and there is a lot for others to consider in terms of trends and best practise.”
Hest said there was huge focus on data and big data so airlines could better understand consumer behaviour and be able to target more relevant offers.
“There is huge focus on customer lifetime value, with which big data is tied. You need a relationship [with the customer] so you understand what they like and how to enticed them back.”
Hest said airlines should to focus on optimising their “website real estate” and underpin their online channel with a call centre operation.
He talked about the importance of knowing when to make the option to buy a hotel room available in the booking process or when to market direct email offers post air fare purchase.
A robust digital strategy, he said, had to include making sure that an airline mobile website was fit for purpose, which will often mean rethinking how offers are presented.
Citing a recent study from the US, he said 25% of web page visits were coming from mobile devices as of last month.
“Tablets and smartphones are outpacing laptops and PCs. You have to think about how that impact the way you sell because it’s a different type of customer.”
Orbitz powers hotel sales for airlines such as Air Canada and Southwest Airlines, and rail companies including Eurostar and Amtrak.