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No 2000/6 - Paris, October 30, 2000

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  French online hotel chains: success is still very far off  

My first comment, which unfortunately has become a usual one as far as our French hotel chains eIndices™ are concerned, is in fact more of an observation: French hotel chain websites are poor and show a real lack of ambition, which does not necessarily go together with a lack of cash.

This is all the more true, and does not leave much room for indulgence, when we compare French online hotel chains to American ones (see our eIndices about American Hotel Chains).

Quality of services, booking engines, content offer, customer relationship, the quality of all these elements is far more convincing on the American websites than on the French ones.

My second comment points out that it would be optimistic to think that one can establish customer loyalty with the poor quality of services that can presently be found on the French online hotel chains.

That's the reason why I think online travel agencies might well be the ones that will be responsible for selling the majority of the French hotel rooms in the next future.

And you might like to know that this is exactly what's happening in the flight industry today.

Most of French and European online agencies' turnover comes from flights, and this is an interesting factor when you know that airline companies only make a very small part of their turnover online.

To make it clear, French online travel agencies sell more plane tickets today than all the French airline companies put together, which is a paradox but also proves that airline companies only have very poor quality websites to offer their customers.

All this means that a customer, even though he might be faithful to a specific airline company, finds it easier to book a ticket through an online travel agency, for the quality of its services and its friendliness, than to buy it directly on the airline company website itself.

One of the explanations is the very weak level of computerization in the French hotel sector.
Very few hotels are yet linked in real time to a web-booking engine.

This is particularly true in this edition of our eIndice, since only two of the ten hotels listed are able to offer the online customer a booking in real time. As for the other eight hotels listed in this eIndice, the only booking they are able to offer is no more than "an order for reservation" that will be confirmed at the earliest 24 hours later…and only if it is a working day.

You've got to know that most of these sites do not allow the customer to make a booking 24 hours a day and seven days a week. If you make a booking on a Friday afternoon, it probably won't be dealt with before the following Monday…


Given these conditions, one can easily understand that the consumer will probably prefer to call the hotel directly in order to find out whether there is a hotel room available and to book it through the phone.

It seems obvious to me that online hotel bookings will not take off before bookings can be made in real time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There still is a long way to go and the fact that 80% of the French hotel sites classified in our eIndice are presently unable to provide these two services proves it.

And yet these two services are very basic ones, web standards that have become a necessity for those who want to make their web experience successful.

I also want to insist on the fact that it has now become compulsory to offer a very large range of products to your consumers to enable them to choose a hotel according to other criteria than price and geographic situation.

Nevertheless, there is a need for cautiousness when you analyze the content of the products a site has to offer.


If you take for instance the website for a hotel such as Fasthotel, it needs to be efficient and fast in order to please its customers and be coherent with the specificity of the hotel. On the contrary, if you take Châteaux et Hotels, it goes without saying that its online policy will be a very different one.

We take these specificities into account when we analyze a site and factors such as content quality and richness as well as the type of services they propose are always taken in their context, it depends on the type of customers they are trying to reach as well as the specificity of their site (whether they are Sales Machine, Focus or Customer Centric).

But, despite all this, we had to admit that there still remains a great deal of differences in terms of quality as far as products and services are concerned.

Among the ten sites we analyzed in this eIndice edition, only two got half marks, among which Châteaux et Hotels which got 5.95 out of 10 for the quality of its website.


And yet, such poor quality is not always due to a lack of cash.

I am rather surprised to notice that the Accor Group did not manage to get itself among the best websites, given the quality of the products it has to offer and given its financial resources, which are far superior to the ones all the other sites classified in our eIndices have.

AccorHotel did not get more than 3.88 out of 10. And yet, it only managed to get this result because of a first and a second position in two of the five categories of our eIndice.

The two categories in which Accor got a rather good mark correspond to the traditional strong points in the rather important hotel chains: its IT abilities (bookings in real time) and its online positioning, the strength of its advertising campaigns and of its brand, and the possible alliances that come from all these strong points.


On the contrary, as far as the quality of the presentation of its products and the richness of the content on the site is concerned, Accor only gets half the mark obtained by the site that arrived first in this category (3.39 against 5.95/10).

If we compare the product descriptions on the's site (6.79 out of 10) to the ones that can be found on the's site, we can easily understand that Accor is still a long way off the level that can be expected of such a hotel: considering its fame and the standard of its customers.

As a conclusion, we can say that there are major stakes in the eTourism sector today and actors in the hotel industry plan on making 25 to 30% of their turnover online by 2004/2005.

Unfortunately, given their poor Internet abilities at the present time, they might not be able to reach such an ambitious goal.

And yet, it goes without saying that this is only a general and rather synthetic analysis and some of the hotels we analyzed here will probably be able to make up for its present defects a bit quicker than others.

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