Orbitz launches free mobile apps for booking travel

By Wailin Wong
Posted Nov. 12, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

Orbitz Worldwide Inc. has launched free mobile applications for the iPhone and Android platforms that allow users to book hotels, flights and rental cars.

In addition, the Chicago-based online travel company has updated its mobile Web site, which has been live since July but whose debut went unannounced.

The mobile site also allows for bookings in all three categories. Chris Brown, vice president of product strategy at Orbitz, said “a couple of percentage points” of total traffic to the mobile site has resulted in bookings.

Several of Orbitz’ competitors, including Expedia and Travelocity, already have iPhone apps and mobile sites. Priceline, which also has an iPhone app for booking hotel rooms and rental cars, unveiled an Android app this week.

Brown said his company wanted to be able to launch a full arsenal of mobile products – encompassing both the iPhone and Android platforms – that replicate what visitors on a desktop can do on the Orbitz site. Brown said Orbitz is the only online travel agent whose apps can natively book hotels, flights and rental cars. This means all of these functions can be done within the app without redirecting to the mobile site.

The focus on Android was especially important because Orbitz didn’t want to rush an iPhone app into the market at the expense of creating an app for Android, an operating system that has seen significant adoption over the last year, Brown said.

“We’re going after a global approach and global strategy, and there’s a lot happening underneath the covers to make that possible,” Brown said. “We wanted to make sure we had a globally scalable awesome strategy. It was not necessarily hellbent on being the first to market.”

For the most part, Orbitz’ mobile apps mimic the desktop experience, albeit on a smaller screen. Users who are searching for hotels, flights and cars will see the same filters that appear on the non-mobile site. One unique feature for the mobile apps is the ability to use the phone’s GPS technology to find nearby hotels. That feature displays hotels by distance from the phone’s location so travelers can see what’s nearest to them.

Brown said the ability to book travel from a mobile phone serves a small but significant segment of Orbitz’ customers that like to make last-minute plans. At the same time, being able to find and book a hotel after landing in a city, for example, may take some of the anxiety out of spontaneous travel.

Brown said Orbitz has noted that a growing number of mobile phone users are making hotel reservations on the same day they are arriving. This observation supports what other online travel companies have also seen. Priceline, for example, recently released data from a two-week sampling of its iPhone app activity showing that 82 percent of customers with mobile devices booked their hotel rooms within one day of arrival. In the non-mobile space, that number fell to 45 percent.

“It’s human nature and the power of these mobile devices,” Brown said. “(Consumers) no longer have to ‘de-risk’ their travel by planning everything six months in advance.”

Looking ahead, Brown said Orbitz will be developing apps for tablets such as Apple’s iPad, as well as studying opportunities in other smartphone platforms such as Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7 and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry. Users of those devices can still book travel via Orbitz’ mobile site.

“We are really doubling down on the mobile space next year,” Brown said.

Read more about the topics in this post: , ,

Companies in this article


Read more about this company »

Comments are closed.