By Alex Lewis
A week after Hotels.com
, currently the world’s largest specialised supplier of hotel accommodation, launched their multi-million pound advertising campaign in the UK I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Diener, the company’s co-founder and President in the comfortable surroundings of the De Vere Cavendish St James Hotel in Jermyn Street. Robert enthusiastically explained the peerless position Hotels.com has in it’s native U.S and more importantly their plans to make the brand a household name in Europe.
“Hotel.com has launched in the UK offering substantial discounts off the published rate in over 9000 properties around the globe”, explained Diener. “It was important to get the timing right for this launch and we’ve spent the best part of 2003 trailing different ideas for our web presence, destinations and advertising to make Hotels.com the most appealing and rewarding site for users in the UK”
State-of-the-art technology plays its part in raising the user experience. Diener continues: “As a US-based company, we were keen to take a ‘think local’ approach. This has led us to deploy IP recognition on the site in order to improve user satisfaction. Essentially those in major countries throughout Western Europe automatically enjoy the ease of booking accommodation at Hotels.com in their local language and currency.”
With negotiating power based on 8,000,000 room nights booked during 2002 and approximately $1 billion in revenues, Hotels.com is able to offer the traveller substantial savings off published hotel rates. However the company insists that it’s users aren’t looking purely for low-cost; more they are seeking the right hotel at the best rate.
“People using Hotels.com are typically independent-minded savvy travellers that want the time -saving convenience of one-stop among a large selection of all types of accommodation from large chain hotels to boutique hotels and self-catering” said Diener.
It is a successful formula. In the summer of this year, Hotels.com saw record-breaking single day bookings of $5 million across the 9000-plus hotels and 400 major markets it serves in the UK, Europe, North America and the Caribbean.
The man charged with spearheading the growth of Hotels.com in the UK is former Head of European Sales and Marketing at buzz, Matthew Walls. Diener explained that from June 200 to April 2003, Walls presided over the launch and development of the airlines’ brand identity in European markets, achieving its two-year goal of 40 % recall across the region within 18 months. They are all aiming for similarly high levels of achievement with Hotels.com.
Walls is in the process of recruiting a full marketing team for the UK to manage the company’s expected £7 million communications budget for 2003-4. The team will be based in London’s West End.
Diener has much to be proud of as Hotels.com already has internet operations that are among the most successful on the worldwide web. It’s online business has grown exponentially - 95 percent of Hotels.com’s revenues are attributable to the internet. Under Diener’s direction Hotels.com has forged long-lasting relationships with its hotel partners, as well as with its more than 40,000 internet affiliates, including many of the Internet’s major travel sites. According to Diener the growth potential is enormous and you can see that a bid to become the dominant brand in Europe will fulfil much of that promise. Having had the chance to meet him I’m certain that Diener and his team will be successful.