InterContinental Hotels Group today announced that revenue streams from direct bookings of its Asia Pacific hotels on the Group’s websites achieved a significant 158 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2004 as compared to the same quarter in 2003. The market that has experienced the biggest impact from e-commerce initiatives was Australia, with more than 200 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2004 compared to the previous year and similarly for year on year growth while New Zealand recorded a 108 per cent year-on-year growth in direct web bookings. Said Mr A. Patrick Imbardelli, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, InterContinental Hotels Group, “Our focus on e-commerce has proven right as evidenced by our strong first quarter results. This focus has not only led to improved revenue for our hotels but has also once again demonstrated our leadership in e-commerce. Leveraging on this success, we will continue to roll out new E-commerce initiatives, benefiting the hotels as well as our customers who book our hotels at our websites.”
Some of the recent key e-commerce initiatives in 2003 included the launch of the world’s first fully integrated Holiday Inn Chinese-language website that facilitated reservations without the use of credit cards. The website not only offers real time content and booking facilities in simplified Chinese, but allows Chinese customers around the world to make online reservations with added ease and convenience as they do not need to use a credit card to secure a guaranteed room reservation.Ê
Another initiative that underscores InterContinental Hotels Group’s leadership in e-commerce is the development of localised websites. The Group was among the first in China to roll out its first Chinese language website that allows booking of 3,500 hotels around the world. Subsequently localised websites for Australia and New Zealand were also developed. The Japanese website is in the pipeline, and is expected to be rolled out in the next few months.Ê
As IHG recognised the importance of personalised service for its preferred customers, it has invested in the enhancement of its websites by incorporating a personalised functionality that delivers added convenience and ease to its loyal customers, who are members of its loyalty programme, Priority Club Rewards (“PCR”).
PCR members in Australia, and in the future around the world, can now store their favourite destinations and hotels, room and rate preferences and even corporate rate information online. This enables customers to book hotels with four clicks, which is half of the industry average according to the May 2003 Forrester Research Report. This is an important development for IHG given that over 70 per cent of the Group’s direct Internet bookings are made by PCR members.
Said Mr Craig Hewett, Director, E-Commerce, Asia Pacific, InterContinental Hotels Group, “We understand that what our customers want is convenience. While cost savings is one of the most common reasons for initial trial of e-commerce, time savings and flexibility are the mains reasons for continued channel use. Our e-commerce initiatives offer customers complete control over the booking process, allowing them to dictate exactly when and where the transaction will take place, and the outcome of the transaction.”
The speed of the Group’s websites is also another contributing factor to the success of its e-commerce initiatives. According to the Keynote Travel and Hospitality Web Transaction Index Suite, InterContinental Hotels Group was ranked first in the hotel websites category with a response time of 8.27 seconds. “Response time” was defined as the aggregate time in seconds it took during the week to complete a multi-step transaction from 10 U.S. cities. This recognition is timely as a recent survey undertaken by MarketShare on online travel and the findings indicated that speed and convenience tops the list of online users for booking online.
Said Mr Hewett, “Having the industry acknowledge our e-commerce efforts is an affirmation that we know what it takes and we can deliver what our customers want.”