Online travel booking site Orbitz Worldwide is starting to direct people to different and sometimes more expensive hotels if they use a Mac computer rather than a PC to access the site, the Wall Streel Journal reports.

Obitz executives found that the average visitor who books hotel stays using a Mac spend as much as 30 per cent more per night than people who book through a PC, the Journal said.

As a result of that difference, Orbitz has begun to show them differing travel options for identical searches.

For instance, Orbitz has found that Mac or iPad users are 40 per cent more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users.

In a guest blog on the USA Today website in May, Orbitz CEO Barney Harford said the company was using data gathered from millions of searches a day to make more personalized recommendations. 

Top search results key

"We can use that information to influence which hotels we recommend to users we see searching on a Mac or an iPad versus a PC," he wrote.

Suggesting appropriate hotels at the very top of someone's search is important, Harford says, because Orbitz has found that 90 per cent of customers book a hotel from the first page of results returned and 50 per cent book one of the top five choices presented.

The Wall Street Journal report points out that Orbitz does not show the same room to different customers at different prices. It just tends to put more expensive rooms nearer the top if they're Mac users.  Users are always able to rank the presented hotels by price. 

The Journal said its tests did show some differences in which hotels were suggested to visitors who used Macs versus PCs, but it found that suggested results were the same in some cities. Orbitz says it has not implemented the new ranking system across its whole site. 

About 11% more expensive

"Overall, hotels on the first page of the Mac search were about 11 per cent more expensive than they were on the PC," the newspaper said.

More and more companies are using data mining to figure out what their customers want. The Orbitz initiative is seen as just another way of using predictive analytics to tailor offerings to certain target groups.

The operative variable in the Mac versus PC divide appears to be household income. The Journal report cites data from Forrester Research that shows average adult household income for Mac users is $24,000 higher than PC users ($98,560 versus $74,452).     

The Journal said representatives from rival online travel sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity all said they don't use information about a customer's operating system to suggest hotels.