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Travelocity, Hotwire, Priceline and other travel deal sites require hotels to pay significant commission fees in exchange for bookings. While this is an important revenue source for the industry, some hotels have experienced an increasing percentage of their business moving to these channels (effectively reducing the amount of undocked reservations they receive).
One primary reason for this trend is the assumption that these online travel agencies (OTAs) will always have the better deal. While rate parity clauses prevent hotels from publicly advertising rates for less than what’s on the OTA, there are strategies property owners can use to entice more customers to book direct.
Recently, my company interviewed several hotel management software and hotel marketing experts to help brainstorm several ways hotels can drive direct bookings. Here’s what they suggested:
Blog About Great Deals and Share The Posts
Your blog is a great avenue for both reminding potential customers why that moment is a great time to travel, and for pitching them on deals relevant to whatever event or season might be happening. You can send these articles to your email list, as well as optimize them with keywords that have high search traffic. This latter strategy can drive more organic traffic to your website. For example, “SXSW hotels” receives 170 searches per month, so Austin-area hotels could write blogs optimized for that keyword so they rank when people search for that term in Google. Here’s an example of a blog post advertising Spring time events in the area around The Sanctuary Beach Resort in Monterey Bay:
Hook Viewers with Strategic Design
Often, travelers shopping on OTAs visit the hotel’s website to learn more about the accommodations offered. This is your chance to capture those site visitors and stop them from going back to the OTA. This takes smart web design.
First off, make it as clear and hassle-free as possible to book. Provide “book now” buttons on every page that link to your hotel booking automation system. These buttons should be located at the top of the page so they are the first thing customers see. Also, include call-to-actions on every page that encourages visitors to “sign up for our email list for exclusive discounts,” or “Like on us on Facebook for special deals.”
Also, many customers assume they will get the “least desirable rooms” if they book on an OTA. So you need to show them what your best rooms look like immediately. This could convince them it’s worth splurging on your room rather than an OTA room. Make sure your most attractive rooms, views and balconies (if you have them) are front and center (like on your homepage). These images need to be professionally taken, high quality and show the best parts of your most desired rooms – soaking tubs, incredible views, large windows and so on.
By implementing these tips, savvy hotel managers can drive customers to their own website without upsetting their OTA and still reap the clear benefits of using OTAs. Rather than a battle, it can be a win for everyone involved.
Interact with Customers on Review Sites
Many times when customers use OTAs, they get a list of five or so properties in a similar price range. In addition to visiting the hotel websites, they might also go to something like Yelp or TripAdvisor. This presents another opportunity to draw customers to your own site, rather than having them go back to the OTA to book.
When customers post reviews about your hotel, you need to try your best to answer as many as possible, where they’re positive or negative. Review, a web-based tool by eRevMax, makes monitoring these reviews as easy as checking emails. The application scours all hotel review sites and collects every mention of your hotel in one location. It also lets you respond directly to guests without ever leaving its interface, cutting down time spent hopping from one review site to another for an effective hotel guest review management process.
Besides just viewing and responding to comments, the tool gives you a deeper understanding of your customers. You can see exactly what’s working and what’s not, trends among customers, and also how your hotel stacks up compared to your competitors.
How do you increase direct bookings? Let us know!
Alan S. Horowitz contributed to this report.
Ashley Verrill is an analyst with Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, GigaOM, CIO.com, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others. She also produces original research-based reports and video content with industry experts and thought leaders.
This year’s edition of Supranational Hotels Conference took place at County Hall Park Plaza, London last week. The event meant exclusively for Supranational members offers them the opportunity to network with peers and leading industry figures, participate in seminars on key industry topics and conduct one-to-one meetings with invited consortia and corporate clients.
Chaired by its Managing Director, Cho Wong, the conference witnessed interesting discussions on various topics including Total Revenue Management, Outlook on Corporate Travel, Reputation Management and Corporate RFP.
Michael McCartan, CEO, eRevMax, one of the speakers at the conference, took the opportunity to announce RateTiger’s selection as the preferred supplier and Channel Manager of Choice by Supranational Hotels.
He presented on The Distribution Landscape in 2013 – outlining the impact online travel has on total hotel bookings. Today, one in six travelers prefer to book online. They visit between 17 – 20 websites and check reviews before finalizing accommodation. Hotels need to ensure they are visible at every important touch point to get customer’s attention. However given the wide variety of channels it is difficult for them to identify the best demand generators from among the ever expanding channel universe.
Further, more channels mean more updates. The only way out is leveraging technology to automate distribution and avoid getting tangled in the channel-web. By utilizing a smart channel manager, hotels can collect and access the multitude of data in their systems to analyze rates, market pricing trends, competitor selling activities, historical and trend information to achieve the best possible room rates from the most desired guests.
Michael shared suggestions and examples on how to drive direct online bookings and how hotels can optimize product value through innovative room packages, new promotions and better positioning across different online distribution channels. The idea was to help hotels deal with the distribution challenge efficiently!
The conference was followed by interactive sessions where I got a chance to speak to member hotels about managing distribution and optimizing revenue strategy through RateTiger solutions.
Cristina Blaj is Sales Manager – UK, Ireland and Scandinavia at eRevMax and has gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry. She is based out of London and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leonardo Hotels extends contract with RateTiger for future-proof eDistribution and company expansion
Leonardo Hotels is extending its contract with RateTiger by eRevMax to support the development of the company’s sales and distribution processes. This follows Leonardo Hotels‘ acquisition of 20 properties from the QMH Hotel Germany Group, in one of the biggest deals the European hotel industry has seen in recent years.
5 key trends in hotel distribution
The rapidly evolving distribution landscape emerged as a focal point during a panel at September’s Annual Conference for the International Society of Hospitality Consultants. During the conference, John Burns of Hospitality Technology Consulting shared five key trends every hotelier should keep an eye on.
Semantic search will be standard across online travel by 2020
Technology continues to push the travel, tourism and hospitality industry forward and make it more dynamic than ever before. But the next phase is where it gets REALLY exciting. For background, this week I took part in a panel discussion at World Travel Market in London alongside Nate Bucholz, industry head for travel at Google, and Andrew Jones, head of search account management at Bing.
Priceline-Kayak deal: Marketing expertise & global footprint at heart of $1.8 billion takeover
Priceline is acquiring Kayak for $1.8 billion in cash and stock. Yes, read it again. While unexpected, interestingly the news does not fundamentally tell us anything about the industry. Unless, that is, aside from Priceline’s willingness to use its strong stock performance to continue its aggressive growth.
Exploring TripAdvisor as a demand generator
Market Metrix indicated that in 2010 user reviews became the biggest determining factor in why guests chose a specific hotel. Using online consumer panel data from comScore, we illustrate the upstream impact of TripAdvisor on online hotel reservations; specifically we show that the fraction of consumers consulting reviews at TripAdvisor before booking a hotel room has steadily increased from 2008 through 2010. Not only has the fraction of consumers visiting TripAdvisor increased, but also so has the number of reviews they are reading before making their hotel choice.
Social Travel Infographic
Social Travel becomes a travel-planning trend. With so much information available online, it’s almost impossible to using any kind of social media. Reviews, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are all amazingly helpful in planning travel of any kind. Obviously, you are already doing at least some social travel, since you read this blog.
Looking or booking? Will mobile really drive new revenues?
Last minute bookings are not a new phenomenon. What is new today is that increasing numbers of travelers have the ability to search and make a booking via a mobile device. And they no longer plan the details of their trip in advance. According to recent research by EyeforTravel, LBS expenditure is expected to near $10billion by 2016, while smart phone sales are predicted to reach 982 million units by 2015. What is more, marketers are expecting an ‘onslaught’ of mobile apps and tools within three years.
How to Manage Facebook
Caterer & Housekeeper lists out five key strategies that a hotel must follow for effective marketing through its Facebook page. They are
- Post eye-catching picture to attract followers
- Select the Brand profile picture carefully
- Customize the app icons
- Pin Up the important post
- Use milestone app for product launch or announcement
Like almost all online customers, travellers comparison shop to find the best deals. A Q4 2011 report on worldwide visitors to travel and hospitality websites by web analytics company iPerceptions found that price was the main barrier to shoppers completing online reservations. But after price, functionality and site design were among the biggest stumbling blocks for prospective customers.
Domestic visitors vital to London Olympics
The UK will only welcome an additional 330,000 international visitors as a direct result of hosting the London 2012 Olympics, reveals research at WTM Vision Conference London. According to Euromonitor International Head of Travel and Tourism Research Caroline Bremner, the UK will welcome 29.4m international visitors this year, a 2% increase on 2011, or 588,000.
Leisure hotel rates set new growth record in March
Average daily rates paid by leisure hotel guests climbed +9.2% in March over 2011, beating the previous record of +8.3% set in December over 2010, according to the latest data from Pegasus Solutions. In North America, hotels benefited from a climb of +8.5% in daily rates for leisure stays, which outperformed the +7.3% record set in February.
Making hotels comfortable with the notion of confirmed demand
A start-up called BackBid is offering hotels the ability to reach confirmed travelers – in other words, travelers that are definitely going to be traveling, not just those who are doing research or comparison-shopping online. With such offering, hotels can assess who is coming to their market, how much they are willing to pay, and what their travel preferences are, whereas consumers get to choose from personalised bids designed to meet their needs/ preferences.
TripAdvisor expands Facebook integration
Trip Friends will now start showing links to reviews from people within their friend’s network. This is probably the biggest development to the Trip Friends channel on TripAdvisor so far and plugs into where TripAdvisor is heading – tapping into the social graph of users so that they can rely on reviews from people they trust or like-minded travelers that may share similar interest by virtue of being within an existing social circle.
Room 77 grows up, adds loyalty points
In addition to searching multiple online travel sites simultaneously, Room 77 now helps travelers uncover special rates, including advanced purchase, AAA member rates and senior discounts – saving travelers up to 50% off other online travel providers.
Top three hotel marketing myths (and the truth behind them)
The way consumers shop for and book hotel accommodations has evolved and disciplines such as social media and mobile have entered the picture, and likely won’t be leaving it any time soon. The article identifies and explores these myths and reveal the truths behind them.
Major markets enjoy the benefits of raising rates
Rising occupancy levels will enable hotel managers in the nation’s major markets to significantly raise their room rates in 2012. The average daily room rate for hotels in the 50 metro areas for which PKF Hospitality Research prepares a Hotel Horizons fore- cast is projected to increase 5.3 percent in 2012. This compares to an ADR increase of just 2.7 percent for all other U.S. hotels located outside of these 50 markets. Favorable supply and demand conditions in the large metro areas during 2010 and 2011 have set the stage for the strong 2012 ADR forecast.
For all its complexity, the distribution game comes down to one simple factor: value. If a channel doesn’t offer value, then hoteliers shouldn’t use that channel to yield inventory, concluded a panel comprising a diverse array of representatives in the field.
Making Social Media An Asset To Your Hotel, Part 3: Sales & Marketing
Marketing using social media requires a different discipline and expertise from traditional and online marketing. Just as radio ads don’t translate well to television, branded online ads typically don’t work well in social media. Marketers wanting to utilize social media will need to think differently, and this section explains how.
A New Era for OTAs
Tension between hotels and online travel agencies has been palpable for the past several years, as the Web distribution marketplace has seen heated competition both online, through the battle for booking revenue, and off, through business negotiations and legal disputes. But as economic purse strings have loosened, consumer demand has risen, and hotels themselves have become more savvy in corralling their own direct customers, several of the major online travel brands have changed their game to reflect what they see as the current state of the business.
Online now accounts for more than half of travel sales across Europe
Online bookings accounted for more than half the travel sales across Europe for the first time last year, according to industry analyst IPK International. But agency sales continue to dominate Europe’s biggest travel market: Germany. IPK reported 55% of all travel bookings in Europe were online last year, up 15% on 2010. Attached is the key findings of the report.
Global average room rate rose by 4pc last year: report
A report released by Hotels.com has indicated that the results are showing the green shoots of recovery for many countries with the average price of a hotel across the world rising four percent, placing them on a par with prices from 2005. According to Hotels.com’s Hotel Price Index (HPI), the relative strength of the global hotel sector can be seen as an indicator of a potential turnaround in the economic outlook with the average price of a room around the world rising four percent in 2011.
The Evolution of Online Travel
Since the rise of online travel in the mid-1990s, it seems that there’s an endless well of ways to get your travel fix. It’s projected that within the year 2012, there will be 98.3 million bookings on the Internet, which translates into major profit for online travel companies. In Mashable’s infographic, you’ll see the progression of online travel, from its roots in old electronic booking systems to the newest and shiniest deals websites. Plus, get an inside look at how users behave while on online travel sites — and where they love to go.
Facebook page? Check! Twitter account and dedicated hastags? Check! Competitions, discounts and giveaways? Check! Any real, measurable and abundant ROI from social media campaigns? A recent Eye for Travel survey of APAC travel brands shows that despite 67% claiming to have deployed social media initiatives, more than half admitted confusion or inability to effectively rack and measure ROI.
Social buying/ Group buying and flash sales sites will undergo a saturation stage in their lifecycle. Many will reach the end of the road but a few strong ones will survive – albeit with some innovative add-ons to the existing business models, says Ricky Ang, vice president – Sales & Marketing, Hotel Equatorial Group.
Global average daily rates (ADR) for both business and leisure hotel rooms continued to climb in January, according to Pegasus Solutions’ data. Following a record increase over 2010 in December 2011, January 2012 saw business rates grow +3.8 percent and leisure rates rise +7.0 percent over January 2011, shared The Pegasus View January edition.
On Tuesday, a new, independent OTA announced a strategical alignment with RateTiger. Global Hotel Exchange, a cost free distrubution channel for hotels to launch in January, will leverage the power of global hospitality technology provider Rate Tager and eRevMax. Set to go live in January of 2012, Global Hotel Exchange (GHX) was founded by Tom Magnuson, CEO of Magnuson Hotels, the largest independent hotel group in the world. As part of the strategic move, GHX gains access to over 20% of the UK hotel market, not including the strength of Magnuson’s other 2,000 hotels in the US and across the UK.
WTM: 2011 Money Generation Machine
Travel Daily News reported this morning, the start of this week’s World Travel Market in London, the leading worldwide travel industry event, welcomed some 183 new exhibitors for 2011. From national tourism boards, destination management companies, to technology entities and beyond, ExCeL, London is the place to be November 7 through 10.
WTM Travel and Online Technology region prepares for more visitors and buyers
World Travel Market, the leading event for the global travel industry, reveals that the number of pre-registered visitors interested in technology and online travel for WTM 2011 is already 13% up on the previous year.With a week to go until the event launches on Monday 7 November, the improvement on last year is likely to increase further.
JacTravel embraces hotel channel management
Travel wholesaler JacTravel has launched a new channel management service for its hotel partners to address what it says it has identified as an important growing market. Commercial manager James Blackmore has been appointed to head up the service and partners already signed up include RateTiger, TravelClick, Figaro, and A&O Hotels and Hostels. Channel management has taken off in recent years with some firms reporting double digit growth in sales and triple digit growth in usage, according to JacTravel. Sascha Hausmann, chief executive of eRevMax, which owns RateTiger, said: “Channel management is becoming an essential technology to more efficiently and accurately manage the multiple sales channel landscape of the internet. Over the past two years we have seen an increase of over 150% of channel updates processed per month.”