Walka o hotelowe rezerwacje – bezpośrednie vs. od agentów.

Chcesz przeczytać w języku polskim wybierz poniżej.

The fight for hotel bookings – direct vs online travel agencies

NB: This is a guest comment by Mike Ford, co-founder and managing director at SiteMinder.

I love this industry. The hotel technology sector must be one of the most rewarding, fluid and interesting spaces to be a part of. At SiteMinder, we have a mantra in the office that that there is never a boring day in hospitality IT – and this certainly holds true!

Like many of you, I’ve been watching with interest the commentary on the tug-o-war between hotels and OTAs for a bigger share of online bookings, particularly following recent acquisitions by Expedia and Priceline Group on behalf of  booking.com.

We are all witnesses to the continual talk of the powerful duopoly that dominates the online hotel booking space, and the concerns that hotels have about its power.

These concerns have even been covered in mainstream press, especially within Europe where issues such as rate parity remain a point of contention and are still playing out.

I have also followed the debate between hotels on social media about how they can maintain a balanced distribution and online sales environment – ie one where they are not powerless in their dealings with the OTAs and can find a position where they can pick up a healthy share of direct bookings in addition to OTA-generated bookings.

And in the past few weeks, I was made aware of a further, albeit-seemingly-small development in the tussle between OTAs and hotels for the guest relationship – one I think is particularly notable and highlights how easily the hotel-guest relationship can be impacted.

The big OTAs’ biggest competition

What caught my attention was an announcement by Booking.com to its hotel customers that it would stop providing the hotel with the guest’s email address as part of the booking confirmation process. Booking.com cited security as the key reason for the change.

However, last week’s change means guest email addresses are  invisible to hotel customers, which hampers  the hotel’s ability to market directly to the guest via email.

Expedia, and other booking channels SiteMinder works with, continue to send the hotel the guest email address as part of the reservations process, but could they follow suit?

While it may seem a small and innocuous change in information flow, changes like this effect the power balance between OTAs and hotels and show how easily that balance can be upset.

Of course, hotels could implement strict front desk processes to try and manually capture the guest email address upon arrival, but many hotels may not think to do this or be motivated to take on the extra overhead.

There are many exciting new marketing and sales cloud platforms available to hoteliers to engage returning guests online and offer personalised experiences. But many depend on the quality of guest data within the hotel system to be effective.

More choice, more winners

Looking more generally at direct versus OTA, , a number of factors are impacting a hotel’s ability to compete directly with OTAs.  Moves by “meta” sites to allow hoteliers to take direct bookings, alongside the OTAs, are notable in this context.

We are seeing options in Google and TripAdvisor, among others, which are potential avenues for independent hoteliers to compete for business with OTAs.

These options are not yet fully developed and rolled out, but there is sufficient motivation to establish a direct relationship with hoteliers.

This would act as  a hedge against Expedia and Booking.com’s ability to cut other intermediaries out of the supply chain through their investment in the mobile app channel.

Booking.com’s move to becoming a hotel technology provider could be seen as a result of the potential impact of direct hotel bookings.

Given the revenue that Booking.com generates from its core business, it’s arguable whether being a hotel tech provider will move the needle a huge amount, but it does provide a hedge as the options available to hotels to sell direct are starting to open up through new cloud technologies, as well as the aforementioned direct sales opportunities such as TripAdvisor.

But it also gives Booking.com direct access to the source system data of the hotel and potentially more influence over rates than its competitors.

Recent coverage on EU rate parity settlements also sheds light on another signal that Booking.com may view the capability of hotels to attract direct bookings as a key threat.

Reports indicate that rate parity requirements will be relaxed in terms of allowing hotels to list lower rates on other OTAs but still require that Booking.com has access to the same rates as on the hotel’s own website.

Assuming these reports are accurate, then they would indicate that Booking.com is not concerned predominantly with other OTAs but, rather, the hotel’s ability to market better rates themselves in order to attract direct bookings.

On the other side of the equation, in hotel land, Accor’s recent acquisition of Fast Booking could be construed as a move to develop their own online sales and marketing technology capability in the quest to diversify its reliance on OTAs, now and into the future.

Hotels are increasingly looking at their cost of distribution and looking for ways to leverage available and developing technologies to maximise direct sales.

OTA commission costs of between 15% and 30% are a good reason for savvy hotels to invest in technologies that drive guests to book direct.

The good news is that commission-free booking engines and other website technologies are today available to hoteliers to allow them to drive down the cost of acquisition and, consequently, these preserved funds can be used to spend more on sales and marketing to attract guests directly.

OTAs work hard and invest big in order to get hotels bookings they may not otherwise pick up. OTAs are a vital part of giving consumers better choice and a more convenient booking experiences.

As the landscape continues to evolve a well-balanced distribution and sales strategy which includes both directly-generated as well as OTA-generated bookings is key.

As a provider of a cloud platform that offer hotels not only the ability to manage their offerings effectively on OTAs but also to sell and market direct SiteMinder continues to be fascinated by the twists and turns the space is taking and we remain committed to help hotels navigate this complex environment

Never a boring day!

NB: This is a guest comment by Mike Ford, co-founder and managing director at SiteMinder.

NB2: Fight image by Shutterstock

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