Hoteliers and OTAs — a match made in heaven? Or … the other place?
NB: This is an article from Revinate
In an ideal world, OTAs and hoteliers would operate on level footing. In this world, in exchange for their commission, OTAs would use their massive online presence to deliver new guests to hoteliers. Emphasis on NEW. Then hoteliers would own the guest relationship and continue building on it.
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Instead, OTAs are like that matchmaking friend who will set you up on the first date but then refuse to stop meddling in the relationship.
OTAs use their massive market share — projected to reach $521 billion this year — to push hoteliers around, eating up the majority of your marketing bandwidth. So much attention is given to chasing rate parity issues and managing your profiles that little is left over for increasing direct business. And your loyal guests, who should be booking with you instead of through an OTA, fall through the cracks.
Revinate’s own data shows that over 75% of the the million-plus guest profiles we have merged with Advanced Profile Synthesis contain two or more masked OTA emails. That means you have loyal guests who keep coming back to your properties, but will book on whatever channel is the most convenient for them. And OTAs make it their mission to get in between the two of you.
What if you could take some of that power back?
You can — with a direct revenue strategy.
Give guests a reason to book direct
Travelers will always compare options and pick the most convenient one — and yes, the lowest rates. But they also care about your cancellation policy, special amenities, and the UX of the booking engine. Use these opportunities to set yourself apart from OTAs and give guests a reason to book directly with you.
Hoteliers obsess over every detail of the guest experience, from the softness of the sheets to the greeting at the front desk. Why, then, should you outsource the booking process, which is a major part of the overall guest journey? You should curate the digital experience with just as much attention to detail.
Take a good look at the UX of your website. Is it mobile-friendly? Easy to navigate? Are your policies clear and accessible? If a guest becomes frustrated with your website, they will quickly bounce to another channel with less friction. And you’ll lose a hefty commission on a guest that was ready to book with you.
It might seem like the odds are stacked against you, especially when it comes to the idea of competing against OTAs with technology. After all, they are literally a digital-first operation.
But you have an advantage that can level the playing field: data. Specifically, first-party data that can fuel highly personalized, effective marketing campaigns.
Unlock an advantage with first-party data
First-party data? Maybe you’re groaning at the sight of another tech buzzword. Or you’re tired of constantly being sold to. But the first-party data hype is real — because at its foundation, it’s about making the most of the very human connections you have built directly with your guests.
You already have lots of first-party data: in surveys and reviews, in your property management system, in your call center, in your spa/golf/restaurant systems. This is all information that guests freely gave you and is based upon the relationship you have together.
Two examples of first-party data in action that can score direct revenue: cart abandonment and OTA winback campaigns. Both are instances where a guest has expressed interest in your brand, either by visiting your website and triggering a booking or staying at your property after booking through an OTA, respectively. These guests are primed to become loyal customers, and by targeting them with appropriate messaging or offers, they may book direct again and again.
Of course, using your first-party data to win direct bookings is easier said than done. You need the right tools to get all of that data out of your various systems and silos into one platform that shows you a complete view of your customer base and activates that data in your marketing campaigns.
I’m talking about the CDP — Customer Data Platform.
I’ll resist the urge to turn this article into a sales pitch, but I invite you to do your own research and evaluate whether your current tech stack is empowering you to make the most of your first-party data.
Get back in a healthy relationship with OTAs
Don’t get me wrong — OTAs are important partners. Their core value is in the “billboard effect,” thanks to their massive marketing and search engine presence. Many guests will discover your hotel for the first time on these platforms.
But that doesn’t mean OTAs need to have all the power in the relationship. Any partnership should be on an equal footing. And if you’re spending all your time and attention on them, then your “situationship” has turned toxic.
The most important relationship you have is with your guests. Make sure that they receive the bulk of your attention, not OTAs.