A US communications firm is promising to slash company phone bills and boost conversion rates by offering consumers new ways to interact with travel providers.


Ebay-owned Skype has invited global distribution systems to develop technology specifically for the travel industry.


The firm – which offers services such as free telephone calls via computers and mobile phones – has more than 150 million users worldwide and 20 technology partners including Sony, Motorola, Panasonic and Cable and Wireless.


UK market development manager Alistair Shrimpton said: “It’s a massive opportunity for the travel industry to adopt Skype”.


Speaking at the Travel Technology Initiative Autumn Conference this week, Shrimpton gave examples of how travel companies are already using Skype, including The Langham Hotel London that has a ‘Skype Me’ button on its website.


Customers can click on the button to be put through to a call centre agent.


He said he is in discussions with a number of major online travel companies to adopt ‘Skype Me’ buttons.


Skypecasts, which enable users to hold virtual presentations with an audience of up to 100, are popular with travellers looking for more holiday information.


Skype currently has three million users in the UK, a figure Shrimpton described as “disappointing”. Penetration in Finland currently stands at 20%.


TTI conference chairman and Genesys senior partner Paul Richer said Skype has huge potential for the travel sector because it requires doing business with people overseas, so could reduce phone bills and improve communication.


“If the industry decides to adopt Skype it would be rolled out very fast,” he added.