July 7, 2011, 2:21 PM

Get a room

Online travel agency Orbitz picks hotels as the first service for its new iPad app

Lead Photo

The app displays a map with pins that mark the location of hotels contained in a scrolling list.

Orbitz.com has added an iPad app that lets consumers search for and book hotel rooms to its mobile commerce services. The online travel agency released iPhone and Android mobile apps in November. Eventually, the iPad app will enable travelers to book and pay for air travel and rental cars, says Chris Brown, Orbitz vice president of product.

The mobile app loads with a map of the iPad user’s current location on the right and a scrolling list of available hotels on the left. Each hotel has a pin tacked on the map that users can tap to reveal information about the hotel.

Hotel search was first because that appears to hold the most value for Orbitz consumers who use iPads, Brown says. “Rather than wait for air and car we thought there was value to add by getting the hotel component out there first,” Brown says. “We are definitely following up with air and car eventually.”

App users get access to the same Orbitz hotel data as they do through the company’s e-commerce site, Brown says. “That’s all of our hotel deals, inventory, rates and deals we’re able to get,” he says.

The company’s decision to launch an iPad app was guided by how consumers use the Apple Inc. device, Brown says. “The native app experience allows consumers to shop for hotels in a way that you can’t do through a hotel web site,” he says. “The web is great, but there are things you can do in the iPad interface that you can’t yet do on the web.” For example, a consumer can glide a finger over the screen to advance to another screen.

Also, mobile device customers tend to book a higher percentage of same-day hotel rooms than customers using the company’s e-commerce site, Brown says. “Traditionally, only about 12% of customers are booking to check in that day,” he says. That percentage is 65% to 70% for mobile phone users. For tablets Brown will only say that the figure is in between those percentages.

Though Orbitz developed an Android app for mobile phones, it is waiting to see how the market develops for tablets that also use the Android operating system. “It’s pretty much wait and see,” Brown says. Orbitz is pleased with how many customers use the mobile phone Android app, but consumers have not taken to Android tablets that the way they have to the iPad, he says. “Once the numbers start picking up we will evaluate it,” Brown notes.

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