A new normal or, like someone else said, a new not normal?
Because all the changes and challenges the pandemic has forced all of us into, do not necessarily mean a different way of dealing with these challenges, by the operators of the Hotel Industry.
Lately, for example, a lot of emphasis has been given to the fact that Booking is closing many of their global offices and the obvious consequences for those workers who, 6 months ago, had probably one of the most secure job on earth.
This is just to highlight, once again, how things have evolved in a matter of a bunch of weeks and months.
But have things changed too, in the way these OTAs have been running their business from an operational standpoint?
Differently put, did the OTAs change the way they sell our hotels?
To answer this question, I’ve conducted a quick test in the last days. Two main points were under my radar:
Paid Campaigns (PPC) on Google Ads => are the OTAs still fighting (and winning) the hotel + destination war? And are they still bidding using brand names as keywords and in their copy (e.g. hotel Palace Milan) ?
Cut-my-margin game => are the OTAs still playing the game of cutting off hotels’ rates by reducing their own margins, so that they show up being cheaper than other channels?
Tools & Resources.
The tools and resources I’ve used for my tests:
- VPN (to connect to different countries, simulating therefore the hotel search as if I was in that country).
- Clearing cookies in my browser (not a tool, but just a way of removing any trace of previous presence)
- Time. As said, results may be different in time, even during the same day, so I needed to make multiple checks spread over a few days.
Google Ads: Search Campaigns. Yes, but…
You might think that you can simply go to Google, enter the keyword hotel + destination and you see whether the OTAs come up as a result of a pay-per-click paid campaign (Google Search).
However, there are multiple factors that make such a test a non reliable one, for example:
- the frequency of the ad may change over time, so if you don’t see it now, it doesn’t mean you won’t see it later, or tomorrow.
- the country where the search is made from.
- the specific destination where the hotel is located.
The results: on a general level, mainly Booking and Agoda are running paid ads bidding for generic hotel-related keywords like the most classic hotel + destination.
Barely Trivago. Never Tripdavisor. Never Expedia.
However, also when it comes to Booking bidding for hotel + destination keywords, there are many BUTs to be considered.
First, the bid is not the same all over the world. There are essentially 2 conditions that may determine the ad showing up or not:
- What country the search is coming from
- What is the destination used in the keyword hotel + destination.
For example, a search made from Singapore, for hotels in Singapore:
As opposed to the same search for hotels in Singapore, but coming from Thailand, where I currently and physically am:
In this last case, there is apparently no one bidding as all results displayed are organically pulled up by the Google SERP.
Make sense. At this point in time borders in Singapore are still closed, which prevents people from abroad to go to Singapore.