Those who know me, know that I have occasionally (well, in truth, regularly…) been very critical of the under-hand behaviour of many of the OTAs and although I have, in this instance, called out booking.com, they are not the only culprits…
So I will keep this brief and ask for you to consider only one action – check your T&C’s on the OTAs and make sure they are, as a minimum, in line with your own and definitely NOT better!
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A very personal example… in a few weeks’ time, I am travelling to Bristol for a family wedding. I need to book a hotel room and as I was unsure of where the venue was, I went to my usual search engine – booking.com, (yes, like many I use it as a search engine), typed in the location of the wedding and then searched for hotels close by. I found the perfect 4 star hotel minutes away and within my budget for a two-night stay with my daughter. Of course I went to the hotel’s own website as I absolutely will always book direct.
However, along with the location, the next most important factor for me was the ability to cancel at the last moment and, although I hope with all my heart not to have to do that, with a family illness to contend with, it had to be a serious consideration for me…
What I found was that booking.com offered much better cancellation terms. They were allowing me to cancel right up until 2pm on the day of arrival, whilst on the hotel’s own brand site, it was 3pm the day before.
Now this may seem trivial to some but please make no mistake, this will influence MANY bookers! This hotel is not only losing direct bookings, they are paying ridiculous commission and, more importantly, losing critical data on their guests and the ability to communicate directly.
Add this to the fact that many hotels have better images on the OTAs than their own website, allow the OTAs to dictate their rate policy, and allow certain OTAs to plagiarise their own sales strategy by actively joining programmes such as Genuis (and others), and you can see why the OTAs still have the upper hand.
So I urge you to please check your T&C’s as a minimum and remember that you are in control. This is your hotel, your guests, you provide the service to make your customers feel welcome and OTAs are just a channel… nothing more… just one channel that should be used only when YOU need the business and not when THEY want the business.
(and yes, for those that are wondering, I did actually still book direct as I literally couldn’t bring myself to use an OTA – no matter what the terms…)