It’s a relationship that started off with great expectations, one that was welcomed with open arms by hotels where OTAs helped them to reach new online global markets and deliver a healthy volume of business as well. However, blinded by the initial positive results hotels now seem to be in a very one side union, where one [OTAs] effectively sell rooms they don’t own for a very nice profit. They are effectively “creating a perverse situation where the business of providing a good or service is significantly less profitable than the business intermediating its sale,” Skift 2016.
Launching back in the 2000, OTA’s grew rapidly and now their [considerable] slice of market power is of increasing concern. Back in 2013 Booking.com had a market share of 39%, which is now believed to be somewhere closer to between 60 and 70%; Expedia and Hotels.com (an Expedia company) hold much of the remaining share of the online hotel rooms market. Forecasts show that by 2020 the Priceline Group (owner of Booking.com) and its competitor Expedia will control 94% of all online hotel bookings. It really is no surprise then to learn that 1 in 3 leisure bookings and 1 in 2 business bookings are now made through OTAs (Digital Key in 2014).
What can be done? While there are endless articles with initiatives on how to strive for a more symbiotic relationship and regain some control over the situation – we are not going to repeat those here. Instead we are going to look at one key area that can be tackled, in-house, under your control and doesn’t require any major investment, namely, the capturing of your guest email address.
OTAs are even more grating when it comes to passing over guest details to a hotel once a booking has been made i.e. the main players are known for withholding email address information. In doing so, they are forming an even bigger wedge between you and your guest, at the same time creating an opportunity to drive repeat business through their site instead of yours.
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Capturing and storing your guest email address is an absolute must for hotels in their battle with OTAs; it ensures that the guest is also your customer rather than solely that of OTAs, and will help in driving up your direct bookings. Madigan Pratt argues (and supports) that hotels that email their guests relevant quality marketing martial see an impressive increase in their direct bookings.
Check-in is the one of the best times to collect data for guests, data that will help grow your direct booking channel. Using the old fashioned method, you can train your front desk staff to collect key data from guests when checking-in however; this additional request can unnecessarily elongate the check-in process and can also be prone to typo errors.
Conversely, a mobile guest engagement solution makes it possible to collect data from all guests efficiently, even the ones who booked via OTA, with little or no errors. Using mobile check-in allows you to capture any missing guest profile information, specifically email addresses, at the point of check-in. As travellers consider their phone to be the single most indispensable item they carry with them when they travel, it’s arguably a more effective channel to communicating with guests not only throughout their stay, but after they are long gone. Retrieving and storing a guest’s email enables you to build on your direct relationship with your guest, encourage them to return and convert them into loyal customers.
Whether it’s collecting them through a mobile guest engagement solution or at the front desk, in a digital era, email addresses are a fundamental and essential way to directly market and communicate with current and past guests. Email marketing allows your hotel to keep customers informed about any special offers and promotions your hotel is running and incentivise them to book direct. The clear and major advantage of direct email communication is that it allows you to re-establish the link between hotelier and guests.
By: Ronnie Coleman, Sales Director