Whenever we talk to hoteliers about their pain points, almost all of them will mention OTAs. Booking Holdings and Expedia have created a duopoly where they have gobbled up the vast majority of the consumer demands.
Data from 2017 shows that these two OTAs are responsible for over 90% of hotel bookings in the United States and almost 70% in Europe. They are the elephants in the room, but these gigantic elephants are not leaving the room anytime soon.
Hoteliers often feel helpless as they are paying a up to 18% commission on every booking that occurs through the OTAs, and those bookings make up for a large portion of the hotels’ overall bookings. While no one is screaming with joy about the high commission they need to pay, hoteliers do understand the value that OTAs bring and they often call them the necessary evil.
For one, it’s more efficient than running your own marketing campaign to drive direct booking that would compete with the OTAs. As someone who has worked on Facebook advertising, I know marketing can be very expensive – especially on purchases that have longer consideration period like booking a hotel for travel.
Both Booking and Expedia have invested tons of money into technology, R&D, and marketing to drive bookings and reservations. Booking and Expedia had a combined spending of $10.6 billion on marketing alone in 2018. It's going to be hard to compete with that.
Secondly, OTAs serve as great distribution channels for hoteliers. Given consumer behaviors, OTAs are used as discovery channels. Consumers in this space are generally brand-agnostic, and they use OTAs to do research to find and discover the right option for themselves. Without being listed on platforms like Booking or Expedia, your property may never be seen by prospective guests.
Rather than being afraid of the OTAs, hotels should create better experiences in conjunction with OTAs to guide these travelers through their hotel booking journeys. A recent Google survey shows that up to 52% of guests who discover a property on OTAs will visit the property's website to do additional research. When they are on your website, it is fully within your power to turn the visitor into a guest.
Make it easy for visitors to do research
As mentioned, many people that are visiting a hotel’s website from OTAs are trying to learn more and do additional research – especially around pricing. The hotel’s website should show prices upfront and make it easy for the visitors do price comparisons.
If the information isn’t available on the website, make it easy for visitors to ask questions
Visitors might have some very specific questions that they could not find the answer to on the website. Rather than a support email which take hours – or days – to resolve, you should leverage live chat to allow the visitors to send a message about their questions and get answers in near real-time.
Be mobile friendly
The US consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices and smartphones more than ever. If a visitor comes to your website on their phone, and they are not able to navigate and find the information they need, then they will leave and go somewhere else. It’s simple as that. So it is extremely critical for your mobile website to be usable.
Build loyalty and offer discounts & perks
Visitors that are landing on your website are already showing high intent that they want to stay at your property. Sometimes you just need a little extra nudge to turn them into guests. Get visitors to sign up for your loyalty program and book directly on your website by offering perks and incentives like early check-in or a small discount on their next booking.
Surface good reviews and have social presence
Reviews are an essential part in the decision making process for any consumer that is looking to make a purchase. If you have glowing reviews from guests, you should share them on your website. It is also critical to have a strong online presence on review platforms TripAdvisor and social platforms like Facebook. Social is being more and more important in the world of sales and marketing. How important? Check out this hilarious video below about a Vice reporter faking his way into becoming the #1 restaurant on TripAdvisor. While we certainly don’t condone fake reviews, it goes to show the power of social and how words get around.
But remember, regardless of where guests are booking, the most important of thing is to always to ensure superior and memorable experiences for your guests from pre- to post-stay!