There are a lot of OTAs — Online Travel Agencies (like Hotels.com) — out there for Innkeepers and Hoteliers to consider in their marketing mix. There are also GDS’s — Global Distribution Systems — that give you access to the Google Hotel Booking network among other things. How best to make an informed choice, and should you use these channels at all?
Our Webdirexion Hotel Marketing Solutions philosophy is that while you should seek to maximize bookings at your own website, the OTAs and GDS’s are the devils you must deal with — and pay the 15% (or higher) commissions. Why? Industry statistics show that most hotel searches begin at the search engine (usually Google, of course), and then about 20% of searches continue at an OTA with about 20% at your own site. So, depending on your profitability formula, OTAs can help lift your occupancy rates, and your overall revenues for the year. Plus, Google — the huge gorilla on the street — reviews your inventory in both OTAs and GDS locations to report what rooms might be currently available in live search returns for those seeking lodging. You pay to play with the OTA, but should dial in some strategies to get folks onto your own email marketing list to capture their future repeat business.
“…if you agree that newer “disruptive” technologies like Uber and AirBnB are here to stay, then why let them eat you for breakfast?”
What channels to use for your hotel room inventory allocation? Below is a screenshot from myallocator ($17 month) that integrates nicely with our preferred room booking solution — the progressive minded Checkfront (we’ve partnered up with them, but can and do work with other cloud based systems for website development as the project requires).
- Expedia is a good place to start because it gives you exposure on Hotels.com which is a brand it owns, and the company also operates Venere, Hotwire, Egencia, eLong and now Trivago making this powerful group the dominant OTA family in terms of U.S. marketshare. You may have seen the huge marketing push for Trivago on TV lately — each of the sites are well promoted.
- Trip Advisor has become very popular, and if you do not show inventory on it (where you will have lots of reviews even when you’ve not allocated inventory on their site), they will show competitors in your venue that do list rooms with them. Did you know that TripAdvisor receives more than 315 million monthly unique visitors making it one of the largest travel companies in the world?
- Orbitz is a solid brand that also owns Lodging.com, so this is also another good OTA for consideration.
For medium to larger Hotels (20 rooms minimum), myallocator offers a GDS (Global Distribution System) channel called “Reconline”. This gives you access into Google’s “Google Hotel Ads” system. The same channel also pushes your inventory out to many other OTAs worldwide. Reconline’s website states, “reconline CRS makes your hotel available for reservations with an estimated 450’000+ travel agents and distributors worldwide (GDS), as well as the major online travel agents (OTAs) and their thousands of affiliate sites.”
What about non-traditional plays like AirBnB? That option is tremendously popular and widely controversial. The AHLA — American Hotel and Lodging Assn. — has recently announced plans to fight AirBnB and some of their lodging practices. This reminds me a lot of the Uber taxi company versus established taxi companies and associations. It’s food for a longer post or two, but let me ask you this question — if you agree that newer “disruptive” technologies like Uber and AirBnB are here to stay, then why let them eat you for breakfast? Huh? What I mean is that progressive thinkers can find a win-win solution and embrace the technologies favored by newer generations.
Preparing a detached room, apartment, or condo for AirBnB renters could boost your revenues when local permits don’t allow such an addition to your traditional BnB inn or hotel. Check your local regulations carefully (a good place to start might be the AirBnB Analyst Blog — the author has an eBook on city ordinances for AirBnB based on his experiences in Portland, OR), then consider how the extra online exposure could help out your traditional hotel business too. The myallocator system has an integration with AirBnB, so your inventory will stay automatically updated in Checkfront, and you’ll be able to promote the same professional service for AirBnB visitors as your traditional guests receive.
That’s another great thing with the Checkfront cloud booking system and myallocator integration — all the channels you select are automatically integrated for updates in real time when a prospective guest books a room on any of the sites in the networks you choose. We will be pleased to give you a behind the scenes tour of both Checkfront and myallocator. Have an opinion on this post? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Scott serves as Chief Optimizer on the Webdirexion team for both development and content marketing strategy, and is the author of the new book, “The Marketer’s Concise Guide to CRO” (Oct. 2015). He is a career marketing communications professional with niche industry specialties in healthcare, law firms, and hotel marketing and holds recent certifications in Google Analytics Mastery (Udemy), and RACE Digital Marketing (Smart Insights).
Scott has also taught business, web programming and eCommerce courses at colleges in the Portland, Oregon area. He currently teaches WordPress Content Marketing Power, an online course through Udemy, and has spoken at several Content Marketing conferences. When he is not geeking out on a Mac, Nexus 7, or Google Chromebook, he enjoys Tai Chi, walking with his two dogs, and survives on Coffee and Pizza.