Book independent hotels via Accor's new online service

PARIS - French hotel giant Accor on Wednesday unveiled an online reservation platform for independent hotels, in competition with TripAdvisor and

The group also changed its name to AccorHotels to match the new site,

The platform, to begin functioning next month, will list some 10,000 hotels in 300 cities and 92 countries by 2018, about three times as many as it currently offers.

It follows the acquisition of Fastbooking in April, Vivek Badrinath, who heads the group's digital strategy, told Agence France-Presse.

Noting that the service would not seek to be as exhaustive in its selection as online rivals like Booking, Mr Badrinath said the range of selected hotels would still be wide and varied.

"Independent hotel destinations, which represent a very big section of the hotel market - particularly in the United States - constitute a very important area of business development," he said.

Selection criteria for listed hotels will include ratings on TripAdvisor, popularity of destinations among tourists and proximity to locations sought by customers.

Looking to attract as many quality hotels as possible, AccorHotels promises to apply lower commission fees than online travel agencies and, like Booking, will pay partners based on the volume of reservations booked.

AccorHotels has also agreed to provide hotels with the contact information of customers using the platform, which has been a major demand of independent hotel operators.

The group generates 35 per cent of its bookings from online reservations, of which 15 per cent are made via smartphone.

AccorHotels - which operates 3,700 hotels and employs over 180,000 people worldwide - says it is committed to boosting business through the new Web service.

"Over the first two years of its operation, this initiative represents additional investment of around 10 per cent of the digital project presented in October," an AccorHotels statement said, referring to a 225-million-euro (S$341.8-million) budget created to expand interactive services.