Why 2017 Is the Year of the Hotel Guest

Every year, the gurus in every industry like to summarize their expectations and assumptions for the upcoming 12 months into a catchy headline. For example, for many people, 2016 was a year focused on the “Battle for direct bookings.” This culminated in the big brands spending millions on book-direct campaigns and the OTAs responding by dimming properties who offered lower rates and even rolled out their own loyalty programs. 2015 was, perhaps, the year where we hit the mobile tipping point and we finally saw mobile traffic exceed desktop traffic for most hotel sites.

So, at the risk of being cliche, Fuel would like to designate 2017 as “The Year of the Hotel Guest.” This is the year when we hope that hoteliers remember why they got into this industry and truly double-down on the guest and the guest’s experience.

There are many disruptors in our industry. Most of which are being led by technological advances that offer more control, more efficiency or more insight. Many of these are changing the way we operate and market our properties. But, at the end of the day, all of these advances and disruptors are rooted in making life better for our guests.

So, here are 5 of the biggest disruptors we see happening and what your hotel can do to embrace and take advantage of the change.

There’s no denying the consolidation that’s occurred over the past few years. Between Priceline Group (PriceLine.com, Booking.com, Kayak, OpenTable etc) and Expedia, (expedia.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Trivago, Hotwire, Hotels.com etc), there are really only 2 major players in the third-party inventory space. (Sorry BookIt.com). Or at least there were. Now we also have Google and TripAdvisor. I’ll get to those in a minute.

The reason that Priceline and Expedia went out and mopped up all of their competitors was because they realized before anyone else that whoever controls the booking controls the guest.  They get their contact information and their booking information, and they get multiple swipes at upselling, cross selling and reselling that guest over the lifetime of the relationship.

This is why I believe that there’s a better than good chance that TripAdvisor is susceptible to a purchase within the next 12-24 months by one of these behemoths. With the rollout of TripConnect and InstantBooking, TripAdvisor is essentially a META search and an OTA rolled into one. Oh, and did I mention that they have already captured the hearts and minds of the guest with their brand becoming synonymous with hotel reviews?

And, let’s not discount Google’s impact. The Google Hotel Ads (Formerly Hotel Price Ads) platform has been out for a couple of years now, and to be completely honest, it has not overwhelmed those of us who have used it during that time. But we are seeing definite investment from Google to make it work, including making improvements to the administration tools to make it easier for hotels to manage and continuing to give Hotel Ads more and more prime real estate on the SERP. One way or another, Google is going to continue pumping resources into Hotel Ads because they know how much money it can represent if they can eliminate the OTAs from being an unnecessary middleman.

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