Direct Bookings vs OTAs - independent hotels should focus on little victories

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The direct hotel vs OTA booking debate is regularly framed as a huge battle.  There are plenty of posts covering everything possible on this topic including to and fro on whether OTA commission should be treated as a marketing or distribution cost.

Nearly all properties are working with OTA’s and they are leading the market at the present time so I personally think the US vs THEM headlines are passe.

Some great material has however been written on who independent hotels should entrust to supply them technology given the OTA’s have broadened their B2B toolsets in recent times. The Hotel tech trojan horse by Mike Ford, MD of SiteMinder from May this year is worth another read as is Booking.com & Booking Suite – What’s really going on here? from Regatta Travel Solutions from the same month.

With that in mind I wanted to focus this short post on some simple things that properties can action to impact earnings, grow direct bookings and increase market share so they can begin to have some small victories.

And from little things often bigger things can grow!

Use excellent hotel technology such as flexible PMS fully integrated to a great channel manager

  • Use great hotel tech and don’t rely on the systems and methods you have been ‘making do’ with for years because you ‘get by.’
  • Your Property Management System should be able to easily distribute your ALL your rates and inventory to all your channels through your channel manager.  Not one rate code mapped from PMS to a master room, but all your rates.

Manage YOUR availability to achieve small wins

  • Furthermore, these days you can split your channels to your advantage (For example –  Channel 1 – OTA’s, Channel 2 – Direct) and still very easily manage your availability.  One of the catch cries of channel management systems is ‘pooled inventory’ and it has has served hotels very well the last 10 years. However, because OTA’s are so powerful they have totally devoured this ‘shared access’ to inventory.
  • Now is the time for your property to implement some clever tech to produce some small wins, such as providing slightly different levels of inventory to OTAs and your direct channels (hotel direct booking engine, voice and front desk) on Saturday nights if that is a regular peak booking day, which it is in so many cities.

Make the most of your peak demand periods

  • If you can drive more direct revenue on Saturday nights and reduce OTA costs marginally then chances are you can apply the same principle to other demand periods.
  • During Christmas silly season, where locals will book direct with you on the night of their work Christmas party, for example, even though you have 12 rooms why not show your OTA’s 2 which makes consumers book fast with them and other guests come to you as they NEED a room that night. Everybody wins.

Save your legs

  • If you are logging into your channel manager 16 times a day trying to outsmart the OTA’s when rooms are moving fast you need to invest in some better tech that will allow you to set some simple occupancy based rate hikes.  The revenue growth will pay for a better system like GuestCentrix in a few short months and also save yourself a lot of stress.

At the big end of town bodies like the Accommodation Association of Australia are pursuing OTA’s for better outcomes for the industry but while that is going on I hope you can have some great small victories also in 2017.

Duncan Waterman

Director, Global Sales

December 2016

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