Remember when hotels were mostly booked through brick and mortar travel agencies or looked up in the yellow pages (the paper kind)?
NB: This is an article from WebRezPro
We’re going back 20-odd years ago, so you’re forgiven if you don’t! These days, the realm of hotel distribution has evolved with technology to span both the physical and digital worlds – with heavier reliance on the latter. Like all seemingly unlimited choices the internet affords us, the web of hotel distribution can be a bit overwhelming.
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So for sanity’s sake, we’re untangling it all to bring you the most important online distribution channels for independent hotels and how to manage them.
Most Important Online Distribution Channels for Independent Hotels
From your property’s website to OTAs and GDS channels to wholesalers, there are numerous types of online hotel distribution channels, but we will focus here on the types of channels that drive the most revenue for the majority of our clients—independent hotels.
Your Property’s Website
The face of your property online, your property’s website is your most important marketing asset. Done right, your website will communicate your property’s unique stay experience and compel your customers to take action – whether that’s to make a booking, reach out by phone or email, or follow your property on social media.
Your property’s website is the only online distribution channel that allows you to sell direct to travelers (without paying commission to a third party). That means your website generates the most profitable bookings and for that reason it’s important to make sure you’re maximizing conversions with a mobile-friendly website design, good SEO (search engine optimization) practices, and a mobile-friendly online booking engine that is integrated with your property management system (PMS).
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
OTAs like Expedia, Booking.com and Airbnb provide travel bookings to consumers, including flights, accommodations, car rentals, cruises, and experiences. They play a major role in distribution for most independent and chain properties. While the commission payments can sting a little, OTAs greatly extend a property’s reach, bringing in bookings from far and wide. OTAs offer travelers a convenient way to book and manage their travel reservations. Their immense marketing budgets have made them a go-to resource for travelers around the globe. To get the most exposure on your OTA channels, it’s important to keep your listings up-to-date and respond to guest reviews on those channels.
Global Distribution System (GDS)
The GDS (global distribution system) was born in the 1960s to supply travel agents with flight availability. Today, GDS channels like Sabre and Amadeus provide live flight, hotel and rental car inventory to both brick and mortar and online travel agencies. A GDS connection is a good way to get your hotel in front of corporate travelers and also older travelers who tend to book through human travel agents. While hotels are charged for bookings coming through the GDS, it’s another route for pushing your rates and availability to every corner of the world and is a worthwhile distribution channel for independent hotels to consider – especially for those that cater to corporate travelers.
Like OTAs, metasearch channels are popular among travelers for researching travel options and comparing prices, but unlike OTAs, metasearch channels do not traditionally offer the ability to book. Instead, metasearch engines point the customer to the property’s own website to book direct or to OTAs. The lines are starting to blur with some metasearch channels now offering bookings too, allowing travelers to choose to book through the metasearch site. Typically working on a cost-per-click (and now cost-per booking) model, metasearch sites include the likes of Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor and Kayak. Metasearch engines are great for exposure, and you can place bids to improve your ranking in search results. As you do on OTA channels, make sure you pay attention to reviews and keep your listing up-to-date on your metasearch channels too.
Choosing the Best Mix for Your Property
Finding the right distribution mix for your property will involve a bit of research and testing. Online channels will likely comprise the largest part of your overall distribution strategy but offline channels – like voice and email reservations, walk-ins, and local partnerships – are also very important and should not be neglected.