” Book direct ” is the war cry of hotel owners, management company executives, chain CEOs and many marketing consulting groups. Like real war, the costs and benefits must be evaluated, particularly by those who will be paying for it – hotel owners. This is even more critical for a war that is unwinnable.
“Wars are won and lost on the basis of superior strategy and overwhelming resources.” -Clausewitz, On War, Book 2, Chapter 2, 1873
An Unwinnable War
In this war to win the hearts and minds of modern travelers, intermediaries like Google, Expedia and Priceline have the resources and major strategic advantages. Individually and collectively, they have massive financial resources to invest in technology (website and mobile), systems, databases, marketing, talent and so forth – more than any single chain, much less an independent property.
They have strategic advantages in their market power, reach and capitalization. Their strategic proposition for the consumer is also more compelling – an efficient means to assemble, determine value for and obtain the lowest prices for a comprehensive travel experience. They also have the traveler and supplier information to execute a seamless user experience. Moreover, their mobile apps are efficient, proactive and executed in real-time.
On first glance, a war against these opponents is unwinnable.
Hotels can offer only a part of this. Their websites limit consumers’ evaluations to the confines of their own brand.com, though most provide external and independent access to TripAdvisor reviews and social networks. Further, their consumer traveler assistance is limited to the property and local area via mobile-concierge-type apps.
Chains are winning some battles. They are leveraging loyalty programs as part of the now widespread book direct advertisement campaigns that communicate better deals for their loyal consumers as well as mechanisms to evade intermediaries’ rate parity agreements. They are also using apps, targeted at loyal guests to improve the hotel experiences and produce additional non-room revenue before, during and after the stay.