Orbitz continues to make moves in the hotel space By Dennis Schaal / May 05, 2009 Share 1 -- Orbitz continued recent efforts to differentiate itself from competitors, becoming the first online travel agency to extend a form of price protection to hotel bookings.When a customer buys a prepaid hotel on Orbitz and another customer subsequently books the identical hotel stay (same dates, property and room type) at a lower rate, Orbitz will automatically send the customer who paid more a check for the difference."Hotel Price Assurance provides peace of mind to consumers who want to book early but be protected in case rates drop later," Orbitz said.Orbitz, which launched the Price Assurance program for airline tickets last year, recently began displaying the total price for hotel stays in initial search results, another industry first.The consensus among industry analysts is that Orbitz Hotel Price Assurance provides a great consumer message, puts more pressure on competitors and won’t hurt Orbitz financially because of the restrictive nature of the price-protection plan’s terms.Informed of that assessment, Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt replied: "Naysayers can dismiss our innovation all they want. Leaders lead and that is what we are focused on doing in the hotel space right now."Pressed for dollar figures on checks to consumers for the flight assurance program, Hoyt said: "Checks will be going out in the thousands each month for our air and hotel price-assurance programs. But we won't show any more leg than that right now."Our competition wants us to reveal the secret sauce so they can attempt to reverse-engineer what is a sophisticated program they have attempted to replicate with their copy-cat promotions, nine months after we launched the first automatic and permanent price-assurance program for air. We ain't biting."One competitor, Priceline, is taking a wait-and-see approach."I think like any other competitive initiative, we’ll watch it and see how consumers react to it," said Priceline spokesman Brian Ek. "As you know, we are offering a similar PriceDrop protection promotion through June 1 for airline tickets and vacation packages, so we’re collecting our own data on how these programs are received."