About ten years ago when the recession hit, third party travel sites like trivago, booking.com, kayak, and more were a godsend to Hoteliers, as they filled rooms that otherwise would’ve been empty. That view has changed quite a bit in the time since, as these third party sites account for more and more bookings every year, and are also charging higher commissions from the hotels. From a revenue standpoint, these websites are chipping away at the integrity of hotels. These websites have made themselves a middle man where there was never a middle man before.
While the profit margin going forward is indeed a concern for hospitality groups and hotel brands, the glaring issue here is that hotels no longer “own” the relationship between guest and property. Recapturing brand loyalty is the most important thing right now, and that begins with inspiring direct booking through the hotel website. Hotel brands marketing strategies all revolve around this. In fact, customers may have seen Marriott’s #itpaystobookdirect campaign or Hilton’s ‘Stop Clicking Around’ initiative.
In order to drive bookings to a site, success will depend on having the right digital infrastructure. Hotels should not only make their website attractive and informative, but inspire guests to book right there and not move on to a third party site. The key is to implement a new website with seamlessness and straightforwardness that online consumers may not be expecting from the website of a hotel. Big data is also an important vehicle for delivering that personalized touch to these new websites.
Vanessa Vega talks about this subject well. “Even if a traveler is planning to book through a third party, chances are they’ll go to the hotel’s website for more information,” she says. “Once they’re there, that’s the opportunity to capture them. Make sure they know they’ll get the best price or extra amenities that they can’t get elsewhere.”
Obviously, this is all about hotel marketing. Marketing concepts here are customer relationships, customer value proposition, and purchase decision process. The industry seems to be well aware of the difference between generations when it comes to booking. Baby boomers are much more inclined to book direct, or even reserve by phone which might seem absurd to us, the “digitally native” generation. It will be interesting in our business careers to see how we continue the timeless, necessary principles of industry, but also accommodate the changing world around us.