Direct Booking VS. OTA, What Hotel Need To Know in 2017

The relationship between hotels and OTA has always been complicated. Nobody can deny the impact and influence OTA has had on global travel and hospitality, connecting millions of travellers to hotel rooms online every year. OTAs became powerful and efficient by making the journey of booking a hotel less of a hassle for travellers.

In this article we will talk about:

  1. The Power And Influences Of OTA.
  2. What It Means to Hotel.
  3. How Major Hotel Chains Are Reacting.
  4. What Can Small and Medium hotels Do (including those in Asia)

But before we get started, some statistics on travel industry:

  • The world’s travel industry is worth more than $2.5 trillion USD and is currently the fastest growing sector.
  • There are more than 10 million searches related to travel are carried out in Google Search per month.
  • Based on 10 million searches, an estimated 3 million web traffics are going into top 10 OTAs alone.
  • com is the leading travel site and OTA for the industry. In 2016 year alone, it generated almost 1.1 billion visits to its site.
  • Expedia spent 4.3 Billion USD in advertising alone in 2016, an increase of almost 1 billion USD from 2015.
  • Priceline Group spent 3.5 Billion USD on marketing. Priceline Group consist of Booking.com, Priceline, Agoda, Kayak and many more travel related companies.
  • 85% of travellers said Price is the most important factor when determining where to book according to a survey by Google.


The Power And Influences Of OTA
 

Priceline Group

  • Biggest online travel agency in the world.
  • Started in 1997.
  • $88 billion market capitalization.
  • Brands include Booking.com, Agoda, Kayak, Momondo, Booking Suite.
  • Dominant in Europe and Asia, controls about 62% of Europe market.

Expedia Inc

  • Started in 1996 as a division of Microsoft.
  • $22 billion market capitalization.
  • 20 brands under its name including Hotel.com, Trivago, Travelocity, HomeAway, Expedia.com and Orbitz.
  • controls about 75% of the US market.

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Image from FredericGonzalo

Anyone who is not familiar with the online travel landscape may be under the impression there are tens, if not hundreds of websites to go to when booking for hotels. The truth is many websites are owned by the same company and the two dominant companies are Priceline and Expedia. The two largest OTA in the world are Priceline and Expedia and they have been around for 20 years.

OTA was seen as a convenient distribution channel where hotels and airlines could sell extra inventory.

Back in the days, online distribution was not really a priority. In the early days, hotels sold to wholesalers, who sold to tour operators who sold to travel agents and finally to travellers. The problem with this system is the transparency, nobody knows how much was being paid. When OTA entered the industry, it gave control back to the hotel and guest how much was they were getting.

Fast forward to current days, technology has shifted the pattern of how travellers made a booking while travelling and this is where OTA’s shine. They have been focusing on leveraging the power of technology where it is consider too costly and complicated for small and medium hotels. OTAs help hotel and homestay owner to solve distribution problem by helping them to sell certain percentage of rooms on their platform.

Good news to hotelier and homestay owner? Not entirely

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Before you (a hotel/ homestay/ lodge owners who list your property in OTAs) rejoice. Let’s take a look at why you should be cautious of putting too much egg in one basket, or depending too much on OTA to bring business for you.

1. OTA Are Spending Money To Market Their Own Brand

OTAs invested heavily in digital marketing and digital advertising to lure web users to their sites. This creates a Billboard Effect that works in OTA’s favour. Most travellers search accommodation by going through the huge list of hotel and homestay collection in OTA website, this habit is shape by the huge marketing effort done by OTAs throughout the years. That is why OTA brand are so well-known and acknowledge by travellers because it gives them options to choose the accommodation that is most suited to them.

“In short, hotel brand name is not being recognized by travellers.”

2. OTA Can Change The Rule Of The Game

As the numbers of merchant grow and OTA became increasingly dominant, they began to alter their business model. According to Hotelogix, Large hotels were offered lower booking commissions while smaller independent hotels were paying higher. The reason is larger hotels have more rooms to sell and can negotiate with OTA to lower their commission so that they allocate more rooms to sell on OTA. Besides that, commission made to OTA by hotels will not remain forever, the higher the commission your hotel pay, the better ranking your hotel position will be in OTA website.

“This translates to lower profit margin for hotels.”

3. Hotels Do Not Own Their Customer Data

OTA contract often stipulate that hotels can’t market to customers that booked directly with the OTA. Last year, Booking.com stated that they will no longer provide hotels with customer emails. To have a piece of customer information is important for hotels as the best customer relationships come when you are able to engage with them sooner rather than later. The customer experience started long before a traveller check-in to the hotel to create a memorable holiday experience. Losing the control of the customer’s data means losing the connection and relationship that is unique to hotels.

“In the end, OTA will emerge as the winner in the online hotel booking industry.”

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Image from morgan socialities

 Hotels are overly dependent on OTAs. With each passing year, hotels pass more and more money to Expedia, Booking.com, Priceline and the others.” – Forbes

OTA vs Hotel Brand (direct online booking) ratio fell to 51:49 in year 2016, compared to 46:54 in 2012 according to PhocusWright. They also stated that hospitality is the ONLY travel sector in which OTAs are gaining share at the expense of independent hotel brands. Direct online revenue from airline, car rental and cruise sectors are all increasing at the expense of OTA. 

Major Hotel Chains Around The World Are Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

  • Hilton Worldwide

Hilton Hotel made sure the message were passed to the public by putting their video advertisement in front of 25 million viewers during the 2016 Grammy Awards. The company said the “Stop Clicking Around” campaign is its biggest yet in the company near-100-year history.

The company said 1.6 million free nights went unearned in 2015 because of bookings made through third party sites. They aim to offer benefits such as lower price, free wifi, digital key, and points for those who book direct with them.

  • Marriott Hotel Chain

Marriott launched an entirely new campaign in 2016 called “It Pays To Book Direct”. The hotel chain has spent more than $1 million in 2016 in marketing this campaign and their ultimate aim is to influence users to book directly through their own hotel website instead of OTA to get better rates or benefits.

  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts

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Starwood (parent company of St. Regis, Westin and Sheraton) stated in their own direct booking hotel website that the hotel will match any rates that is lower than their own website, as well as free internet and other benefits that is not offered if guest book through OTA or third party website to maintain or increase their hotel profit margin.

What can small & medium hotels with limited budget do?

1. Embrace Technology – Have Your Own Hotel Website

76% of online bookings happen through OTA. However, 50% of the internet users will visit the official hotel website after discovering them through OTA. This is where opportunity comes in. The cost of building a website is so much cheaper now and also easier to manage. Besides that, hotel can let company like Softinn Solutions handle the task by building your official hotel website complete with booking engine for free.

2. Provide Special Benefits For Direct Booking

This method is to create an awareness to travellers by giving them an impression that booking through official hotel website will have something different compare to booking through OTA. Besides that, a guest who stayed at your hotel who received this the perks will leave positive comments on social media which will again influence other web users to book through the official website.

Read More on the guide for hotels to bring direct booking through the hotel website.

3. Run Online Marketing Promotion

Major hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton have both funded marketing campaigns aimed directly at consumers to start educating them by telling them direct booking is better. Small and medium hotels should start doing the same. While small hotels with very little budget cannot run advertisements on television and billboards, the cost of running digital marketing on Google is relatively cheap. Spending few thousands USD on Google Advertisement will reduce the reliance on OTA marketing in the long run.

Read More about the benefits of promotion and how promo code can help increase your business.

4. Provide incentives for returning guest

By giving special treatment for seasoned guest for your hotel, you are strengthening your relationship with a satisfied customer. Re-marketing to the same person who has already been to your hotel require less effort and less financial spending. Since only major hotel chains have a loyalty program, small and medium hotels can provide special promo code specifically target at returning guest to encourage them to come back to your hotel.

5. OTA is still important

Yes, you read that right, even though ultimately what hotels and homestay owners desire is to not pay commissions to any intermediaries, relying on OTA is still an acceptable option for hotels. The influence of OTA will be as strong as ever, having a listing on OTA is still a way for less popular hotels to be noticed by online users.

Learn About how Softinn has partnered with OTAs like TripAdvisors and Tuniu from China to broadcast hotels and homestay without extra charge on the merchant.

**Above Article is Written by Softinn Solution**

Softinn Solutions Sdn. Bhd. is an emerging travel technology company that develops a cloud-based hotel reservation system for small and medium-sized hotels. Learn how we help hundreds of hotels better manage their business and increase sales.

Head over to Softinn Solution homepage to learn how Softinn helps small and medium hotels and also homestays save more by having all the essential functions in the Softinn Extranet. The best part is there is no upfront payment needed.

Softinn helps hotel or homestay build a website with booking engine and payment system so that merchants can focus on running their business without much hassle.

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Softinn Solutions is Headquartered in Melaka, Malaysia.

6 Ways To Boost Hotel Direct Online Booking in 2017

Hotels in Southeast-Asia have a lot of room for improvement in 2017 when it comes to converting direct online traffic. Most of the hotels still very much depend on OTAs (Online Travel Agency) like Agoda and Expedia to bring in sales for their hotel. OTAs services are very beneficial, more so if your hotel is not in a well-known tourist attraction where the location is not popular with tourist.

Another reason why hotels in this region prefer to list their hotels on OTAs is because OTAs are taking care of maintaining the website and the stuff that might seem complicated to many hotel owners who have used to run a traditional business.

Companies like Softinn Solutions are providing services which include building an interactive and modern looking website complete with booking engine for free for small and medium hotels in the region. You can get more hotel guests and increase your revenue by putting an effort towards attracting direct online booking through your own hotel website.

1. Spend More Effort and Resource In Promoting Your Own Hotel Brand

It is also known as the billboard effect. That is why you see many hotels have their own presence in social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. That is why many hotels sign-up with OTA like Agoda and Expedia to get their hotels listed. Since travellers will search hotels through OTAs

Travellers today are stuffed with tonnes of information, with the internet at their fingertips, they can just search information about your hotel with ease.

Due to this reason, travellers will go to different social channels to do a survey before they decide to book your hotel. Here is where the strong influence of OTAs come to play. Try Google any hotel names you can think of and you will notice the top results are dominated by OTAs.

This is good news, isn’t it?

You may be wondering OTAs are helping hotel/ homestay/ lodge to market their brand and made their presence felt online. It just makes sense for the hotel to continue using service from OTAs. But there are something you as a hotelier should understand.

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Image from wisetiger

What hotel owner need to know:

  • OTAs don’t market your hotel for free.
    The fee is included in the commission paid to them by hotels. That is where OTAs get their budget to run an advertisement and get the travellers attention.
  • Hotel too dependent on OTAs will be forced to follow the rules set by OTAs.
    Including changes in the commission which might affect hotel’s profit margin.
  • OTAs are actually advertising for their own brand.
    In the future when travellers wanted to search for accommodation the first place they think of will be OTAs.

Therefore, hotels need to balance their business, instead of fully dependent on OTAs. A hotel can increase their web presence by building their own website which features their specialty.

Company like Softinn Solutions helps hotel increase direct hotel bookings by building hotel website complete with booking engine and payment gateway so hotel can fully focus on what they do best, provide the best service to travellers.

2. Have A Mobile-Friendly Official Website

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Image from Websitem


A study from Google
reveals that, in the past few years, conversion rates have grown more than 80% on a mobile travel site. This means more and more people are making decisions through their smartphones or mobile devices.

This comes as no surprise as smartphone sales grew 7% in the 4th quarter of 2016. This translate to a total of 1.49 million phones sold in the whole of 2016. Besides that, mobile data are getting more affordable and accessible by everyone, including those who are in developing countries.

In short, Google will update and tune their search algorithm to favour mobile-friendly sites.

The image above says it all. Let say you have two version of hotel booking websites, one is mobile friendly and another is not. The ranking will actually be different. The reason why Google will penalize non-mobile-friendly website by giving them a lower ranking is because they want smartphone users to have the best experience while browsing for information in Google Chrome browser.

Click Here To Check If Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly.

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Sample result generated by Google showing if the website is mobile-friendly.

3. Be Honest and Clear About All Hidden Costs

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When a potential customer visits your hotel website and decided to book through your website, the last thing you want to do is scare them off with surprise fees. Some of the hotel websites will only reveal the total amount on the checkout page after travellers have taken the trouble to insert all their details.

Some places collect travel tax, government tax, additional service tax etc. Make sure to display all the charges at the beginning when travellers select the room types instead of displaying at the checkout page. Many hotels still practice this method by adding substantial extra charges only at the very end of the purchase process.

If a potential customer leaves your official hotel website, the next place they will likely land on is an OTA to explore better deals, or worst, book through another hotel. Foregoing the revenue from optional extra charges can help you avoid losing the business to a competitive hotel. 

4. Run Targeted Discount, Promotion and Add-Ons

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image from: Softinn Solutions

One of the hotel direct booking strategies is running targeted promotion or discount.

The best part of having your own hotel website is you can run special promotions that are specially tailored to those who visit your hotel website. A promotion will quickly capture the web visitors attention and greatly increase their urge to not look for hotel elsewhere and book directly through the website.

Do you, as a hotelier, know your target group?

Every hotel has their own target audience. Whether it’s business, family, leisure, group travel etc. Hotel knows best where their potential travellers come from, and they will need to create specific promotion to cater to them. That is how hotel utilize and focus the resources on obtaining maximum bookings.

For example, if the hotel has a constant stream of returning guest every first week of March. The hotel can create a promo code printed on the receipt of those check-out guest. This will encourage hotel guest to book through your website instead of going through OTAs. Besides that, the hotel can also track and record how effective is the promo code by looking at how many returning guests actually uses the promo code. Even if they share the promo code with others it is considered as a referral, and the promotion campaign is a success.

Learn how you can increase hotel online booking by utilizing Promo Code System in your hotel website: 6 Ways Promo Code Can Increase Your Business Earning

5. Digital Marketing Effort

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image from SILC

Do not underestimate the power of your hotel official website.

A hotel website with good design, friendly user experience, clear display of command buttons like Book Now and Gallery will have made a good first impression to travellers when they visit your hotel website. It is most often the first impression a customer will get off your hotel and can win or lose you business.

  • Reply to all enquiries in social media, email.
  • Ensure hotel description, room types and amenities are up-to-date. Hotel can also highlight some added service like free parking and free breakfast.
  • Invest in your own marketing and brand. Allocate a budget to advertise your hotel brand online as well as offline.
  • Integrate with social channels like having a direct booking engine install in your hotel Facebook page to speed-up the booking process.
  • Use email newsletters to promote the offers that is only available on your own website. Research have shown that email marketing is 2 times more effective than cold email to obtain more hotel booking.
  • Google search those bloggers that have written about your hotel and leave a comment thanking them for the write-up and paste your hotel website in the comment section.

6. Human Interaction Can Never Be Replace

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Image from hotelogix

Use your front desk as a point of contact.

Ensure your staff especially the front desk/ receptionist are well educated to promote direct online hotel booking. Besides that, they have to be well informed about the latest offers and deals that can only be redeemed through online hotel booking website.

Companies like Airbnb are making it big not just because their platform can connect travellers to the right accommodation, but also ensure the quality of the host is as good as 5-star hotel customer service. With human interaction, it makes the journey even more memorable.

Even though more and more activities are done online, a successful hotel will always provide no other technology can replace, engaging customers and keeping them happy is the name of the game in the hotel industry.

Are you deciding to have your own hotel website? Find out more by reading What Are The Criteria Of Good Instant Booking Engine For Hotels.

or Head over to Softinn Solution homepage to learn how Softinn helps small and medium hotels and also homestays save more by having all the essential functions in the Softinn Extranet. The best part is there is no upfront payment needed.

Softinn helps hotel or homestay build a website with booking engine and payment system so that merchants can focus on running their business without much hassle.

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Website build by Softinn

**Above Article is Written by Softinn Solution**

Softinn Solutions Sdn. Bhd. is an emerging travel technology company that develops a cloud-based hotel reservation system for small and medium-sized hotels. Learn how we help hundreds of hotels better manage their business and increase sales.

WP_20161230_16_45_21_Pro
Softinn Solutions is Headquartered in Melaka, Malaysia.

6 Ways Promo Code Can Increase Your Business Earning

Promotion is a form of marketing tactic used to boost business in the short term.

Softinn Solution has developed a system for merchant to enable merchants to easily and accurately create many specialise promo code. It is to cater to different occasions and different customer segments. The flexibility of the promo code system developed by Softinn Solution enables merchants to be creative with running the promotion.

For example, merchant can create a promo code to be distributed to random guest during MATTA Fair. The promo code can be printed on the business card or brochure, guest will more likely to keep the business card or brochure. Another example will be to print the promo code on the checkout receipt for hotel guest so that they will keep the receipt and have higher chances of booking the same hotel in the future.

Young man on the sofa with  digital promo code

What Are The Benefits Of Using Promotion for hotel and homestay?

  1. To strengthen and drive customer decision making

In people’s mind, promotion is something which will not last forever, this will create a sense of scarcity to those who have not made up their mind to decide which hotel to go to when planning a holiday. When a promotion is presented to travellers it creates an imbalance decision in their mind and shifts their decision towards hotel which offers discounts.

  1. Spread through Word-of-Mouth and Upsell

Having a nice place to stay and good service is one thing, but if travellers do not know about your hotel or homestay, the effort of building a good business might go to waste. By running a promotion and posting it on social media, it will prompt social media users to take notice and possibly share the content to more users. Besides that, having promotion is something social media users are willing to share as it creates value for them as well when they can have more likes from their followers. The idea is to start the topic and let social media users pick up the information and make it viral. Of course, the promotion has to be attractive and worth sharing.

  1. Create differentiation

When your hotel or homestay has a new package to offer or when a new hotel is launch. Offering promo code will make your announcement more easily engage with the audience. This will set you apart from other hotels in the same area. Even though offering promo code means lower profit margin for your business but the effect of the promotion will enable the news to spread to more people with ease. Besides that, having more people to book your hotel in the early stage will enable you as a business owner to collect more feedbacks and improve the business.

  1. To cover low-season period

In Malaysia, there are certain periods when hotel and homestay will experience a lower booking rate and this will usually happen around the first quarter of every year. During this period, hotels can create promotion to attract the attention of those travellers who are not planning to travel during this period. People are easily affected nice pictures and ads these days. Even airline companies are putting up nice sceneries of certain countries to attract people’s attention and implant the message in their mind that they need to travel now.

  1. Create testing opportunity

Let say you have a new room being offered or new features in your hotel and you would like to know if the travellers will like it. Promotions can provide a limited time window to test for new ideas and measure them. Promotion enables you to figure out whether they are worth the additional investment of time and money to make it a permanent products or services.

  1. Lure more people to book on your site rather than OTA

OTA (Online Travel Agency) is a good way to promote your hotel brand name. However, the commission charged by OTA is getting higher and higher. Another annoying fact is some repeat or regular customers still booked through OTA rather than directly. This is because travellers behaviour has been trained to booked through OTA because in their mind they think they are getting the best price. Running promo code giveaway will not just encourage them to return to your hotel but also give them an impression that they are important as a customer.

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Promo Code Can Work Wonders, but Before You Get Too Excited…

There are few things you should take note of when implementing promotion for your business.

  1. Know your numbers

Be it profit margin, operating cost and so on. Make sure you know what is the cost of running a promotion and what is the acceptable loss your business can take in the short term so that in the long term it will create more value to your business. Also, do not blindly imitate a promotion your competitor is running. Even though you are in the same industry and probably the same location, the cost of each business can be unique to the business alone. Factor in all the cost before implementing the promotion that can generate a positive return for your business.

  1. Promotion code is not a long-term solution

Even though giving out promo code will potentially see an increase in your business, however, if the product or service offered by your business is not up to standard, no promo code or marketing campaign can help sustain it in the long run. The reason is simple, promotion campaign is just a supplementary to a good product or service offered by a business.

Businessperson Hands Giving Gift Card To Other Businessperson

What Are Promotional Code (Promo Code) And How They Work?

Promotional code, or promo code for short, is a code which can be inserted into the e-commerce website to obtain a certain percentage of discount for the product. Promo code is usually made up of a combination of numbers and letters to let business differentiate them.

Sometimes a business can give out multiple promo codes to test which is more effective in generating results. Promo code can also apply in terms of giving free gifts or small gifts when they present the code. This marketing strategy essentially gives customers another strong reason to use a business’s product or service. An interesting fact from a study done from Claremont Graduate University, getting a promo code is more enjoyable than getting a gift.

When a business issue a promo code, they are providing the customer with an incentive to buy. It will benefit both the customer and business. From a business point, even though it has a lower price tag but it will prompt more people to spend their money and thus increase the revenue. From the customer side, they get the same product but at a cheaper rate.

Another important thing to note is that promo code works well with both new and returning customers. Business just has to create the right marketing campaign to target the right audience.

Tracking marketing effort with promo code enables a business to carry out a test to see which platform are generating a higher rate of traffic and also conversion. According to Inc. magazine, a business owner can track the effectiveness of their marketing campaign by using promo code.

Softinn Solution has created a promotional code system that allows merchants to have multiple promo codes embedded into the system and they can then use to track their business performance. This allows the merchant under Softinn to have a broader marketing approach and encourage merchant to have different methods of promoting their business. Merchants can click here to check out how the promo code system works in Softinn Extranet. Click here for the explanation about the description of the promo code system and how you can utilise it to create different promo code for different occasions.

promo code

Head over to Softinn Solution homepage to learn how Softinn help small and medium hotels and also homestays save more by having all the essential functions in the Softinn Extranet. The best part is there is no upfront payment needed.

Softinn helps hotel or homestay build website with booking engine and payment system so that merchants can focus on running their business without much hassle.

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**Above Article is Written by Softinn Solution**

Softinn Solutions Sdn. Bhd. is an emerging travel technology company that develops a cloud-based hotel reservation system for small and medium-sized hotels. Learn how we help hundreds of hotels better manage their business and increase sales.

WP_20161230_16_45_21_Pro
Softinn Solutions is Headquartered in Melaka, Malaysia.