Orbitz has launched a new platform for traditional travel agents which enables them to book stand-alone hotel rooms as well as vacation packages. This matches (for hotel only anyway) agentaccess, a program which hotels.com has offered to the agency community for some time.
The Orbitz for Agents platform offers a 10% commission to agents on stand-alone hotel bookings and 4% on packages which include air and hotel or car and hotel.
And, in an effort to sign up agents, the first 500 agents to register will be paid 12% commissions.
So now we have Orbitz, partially owned by Travelport, pushing agents to book outside of the GDS. And Orbitz is offering a strong economic incentive (at least for the 1st 500 agents) to do so. But will agents abandon their beloved green screens in large numbers? I doubt it - but plenty of small, independent agents may be interested.
And what of suppliers? It gives you some clue as to the level of margins Orbitz (and Hotels.com) are able to extract from hotels if they are able to not only match the industry standard 10% rate but still cover the other costs associated with the merchant model (e.g. credit card fees, fraud, customer care etc) which are normally borne by hoteliers under the agency model.
And it is a good move for Orbitz. Orbitz has a choice to drive incremental bookings - they can pay an agency 10% or Google. Stands to reason they already pay Google enough so this is an interesting way of lowering reliance on paid search.
Orbitz does allow for agents to add their own service fees - could this be the distribution model of the future in the hotel industry much as it has become the standard for airlines? Wait and see..