Agency hire possible as Hilton boosts online sales

Hilton UK and Ireland has held preliminary negotiations with PR agencies with a view to boosting promotional activity for its online sales facility,

Communications director Leslie McGibbon confirmed discussions had taken place this week, as the hotelier looks to increase usage of the site.

'It's Hilton's strategy to drive a lot more of our bookings through, and we're doing so through a mixture of our sales, marketing and PR departments,' he said.

McGibbon admitted financial motives were part of the strategy: 'The site has proven to be very user-friendly and popular, as well as a cost-effective way of doing business.'

A move towards an online presence would suggest an attempt to mimic the successful business model of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Go. Such airlines have been able to profit at the expense of larger operators in the travel and tourism market who use more traditional sales models, due to the reduction in operating costs.

With the UK tourism sector struggling following the foot- and-mouth outbreaks and terrorist attacks in America last year, such a move would be a boon to Hilton, which suffered a 30 per cent drop in profits for its prestige London hotels in the two months following 11September.

McGibbon refused to be drawn on the timing of an appointment of an agency, describing the talks as 'very preliminary'.

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