Once upon a time… the year 1996!
In 1996, two companies were founded which we now know by Booking.com (Booking Holdings) and Expedia.com (Expedia Group). Both companies in the first 4 years of business revolutionized the way hotels were sell themselves and are now the two most popular OTAs.
Through OTAs, hoteliers have been given the tools to manage price and availability day by day, yielding their business according to supply and demand.
At the same time, the hotelier now has another direct sales channel with an audience of millions at his reach, the hotel website. A great opportunity to attract guests and make direct sales long before they enter the hotel door.
After more than 20 years, where are we?
OTA Partner Proliferation
In the following years, it was a race to contract with almost all types of OTAs, which is no surprise, as the commissions were much lower than in the traditional model. Nowadays, it is easy for a hotel to have about 20 to 25 OTAs as partners for its digital sale.
This has brought many challenges to the table, such as duplication of content on the network: mirror websites copying all hotel content, price disparity, OTAs selling B2B rates, comments from customers who never stayed at the hotel without any kind of validation by the reviews website, etc.
All these challenges have escalated globally and are currently difficult to mitigate. They are still in need of improvement by hoteliers today, and many of them look for a drastic reduction in the number of OTA partners.
The eternal promise of the hotel website
There is a difference between the potential to reach an audience of millions and the potential to effectively impact and attract that audience. And at this point, the necessary work is not easy, making it virtually impossible if it is not strategic for the hotel.
The reality is that being committed on the digital direct channel has not been a priority, it is rarely in the top 3 on the investment list. Investment? Yes, it is easy to say that we want to sell through the direct channel, but in order to exceed the eternal share between 5% and 10%, investment is a priority.
Be prepared not to fall into the facilitation of the immediate result and lay the groundwork for a plan that is not finite and has heavy competition. More than focused on seeing month-by-month sales increase or decrease, the line of thought should be: how can I make my website more visible? What will make the difference in converting visits into bookings? Is my website aligned with current technology?
And keep in mind that
Clearly, hotels have a direct selling channel at hand with giant potential, but hoteliers need to be prepared to play an infinite game and believe in a part of their business that has a small share and requires investment to grow. This will need long run strategic thinking because they must reverse a strategy of over 20 years. The big reward will be for the most resilient hotels! Is your hotel still in 1996?