With the economy slowly rebounding and new hotels popping up, hotel companies are continually looking for ways to increase revenue. Behind this principle is a growing push by the hoteliers to drive bookings directly through their own websites and reduce the use of third-party sites.
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The idea makes sense. Direct bookings eliminate the fees paid to online travel agencies (OTAs) and provide more control over content and overall look. And, no other brands are directly competing for the users on the site. But what does this shift mean for the consumer?
Consumers are price shoppers, comparing prices across multiple sites, brands and locations. OTAs, such as Priceline or Expedia, serve as a great resource for understanding what is available and for how much.
In an age where brand loyalty bonds are not that strong, would direct booking lead to a noticeable increase in bookings? Would consumers plan to check more sites and spend more time comparing, or would they settle in and check just a top few favorites?
Direct booking is the way of the future. It allows for greater control of the margins and the brand identity. And it allows hoteliers more time with their customer. As hoteliers collect, and use, information on their customer’s, they will be able to further personalize the data and the experience. Consumers will get savvier and savvier on how they search and expect more from hoteliers. And if the hotelier fails to deliver, they will be written off.
And what about the website experience itself?
Brands have invested greatly in optimizing the booking experience and translating it onto mobile platforms. And, not to be ignored, OTAs have done the same. But with this push, what happens to a brand’s web presence if it is not as great? Do they get left out of the search? Most likely they will. Consumers want the process to be easy. And with some many options, moving on from a difficult experience is often an easy decision.
The war for revenue will wage on. Hotel brands want to increase their revenue and direct booking is one opportunity to do so. OTAs exist to collect excess hotel inventory and sell at discount prices. And as OTAs merge, they continue to become more and more powerful.
It will be interesting to see how consumers react and if they welcome the direct booking direction or if they support the advantages of the OTAs. Time, and bookings, will tell.