On AeroMexico's Web site, online travelers immediately can choose their
preferred language - English or Spanish - before they pore over flights and
Southwest Airlines' Vamonos, the part of its Web site for Spanish speakers,
gives lots of information about policies but doesn't allow bookings online in
Spanish. It urges fliers to telephone a Spanish-speaking reservations agent.
Even as the nation's Hispanic immigrant population grows, travel Web sites
vary widely in the amount of content they offer for Spanish speakers. "The
travel industry is lagging behind most of the other industries," says Felipe
Korzenny, a communication professor at Florida State University and co-founder
of Cheskin, a multicultural marketing firm. He says some credit card providers
have extensive Spanish content on their sites, but "in travel services, I
don't see it."
- No booking capability. Southwest isn't the only one. United Airlines allows
customers to ask about their frequent-flier miles, sign up for the
frequent-flier program or see the status of a flight in Spanish. But the
answers are still in English, and when it comes to booking a flight, you still
must do it in English.
- Latin American customers only. Delta, American and Northwest are among the
airlines that have Spanish content aimed at Latin American customers, but not
for Spanish speakers already in the United States.
- Little or no Spanish language content. Expedia.com, Orbitz and Hilton.com
are among the sites that don't offer Spanish-language content. "We did a bunch
of research, and we found that our Hispanic customers are actually very happy
with our U.S. dot-com site," says Andrea Riggs of Expedia.com.
Korzenny says about 60 percent of the U.S. adult Hispanic population prefers
to speak in Spanish. With Hispanics' growing numbers and affluence, more
travel providers are paying attention.
"Marketing executives are realizing they are going to have to make more of a
concerted effort," says Eliot Phillips, who has studied airline Web sites as a
partner in the marketing consulting firm Lippincott Mercer.
Some travel Web sites excel in Spanish-language content. Hertz and Avis both
offer information and booking capability in Spanish and other languages.
"We feel this will give Spanish-speaking customers a higher level of comfort
when dealing with our company," says Avis spokeswoman Susan McGowan.
Vegas.com, an independent site for booking hotel and show tickets to Las
Vegas, just translated thousands of pages into Spanish. "The important thing
is serving this community, not just marketing to them," says President Howard
More language capability is on the way. "They're working on putting it into a
number of other languages," including Spanish, says Jeanne Datz, a Hilton
While developing Spanish-language pages is manageable, having separate
Spanish-language reservations systems online is "a challenge," says Henry
Harteveldt of Forrester Research. "You are not talking about an easy-to-solve
or inexpensive problem."