As Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) have increased their market share during the past 10 years, hotels are taking initiatives to regain direct bookings and avoid paying hefty commissions to third parties. The main reason for travellers choosing to book via OTA’s instead of directly are for “its superior site tools and options” as it emerged from Google surveys “2014 Travelers road to decision”. Lower prices/better deals came second.
In this post, we’ll present 3 solutions to present better deals and then 3 answers from hotel chains to facilitate and provide a better stay to their guests. Those last 3 points can only be available by booking direct. Technology wise, it is currently not possible, for OTA’s to offer the same type of services.
1. Rates discount for loyalty program members
In February 2016, Hilton launched its largest campaign ever called “Stop Clicking Around”, which includes exclusive discounted rate as well as usual benefits like HHonors Points and free Wi-Fi.
To be even more persuasive, Hilton also made available the option to check-in, choose your own room from a digital floor plan and use a digital Key. All of this using the HHonors mobile app. We will come back on those functionalities later on.
Marriott International followed Hilton in April 2016 with “Marriott Rewards Member rates”, a lower rate exclusively designed to reward loyalty members who book directly. These rates offer a discount of at least two percent on weekdays and up to five percent on weekends.
Not only the largest hotel groups have implemented this reward. Glh hotels from UK choose to offer complimentary breakfast or 10% off with every stay when you are a member of their loyalty program.
2. OTA price comparison widget on hotel website
To re-assure travellers that they get the best price by booking direct, Triptease a UK company and The Hotels Network founded by Juanjo Rodriguez in Barcelona, provide similar solutions consisting of adding a widget on hotel website that display the rates of your hotel on various OTA’s.
The idea is to comfort travellers that by booking direct they will get the same or a lower price than on OTA’s. Another way to “stop clicking around” as says Hilton.
As traffic acquisition is expensive, increasing booking conversion is key to keep your marketing activities profitable.
Both companies also provide report with price disparity to make sure you have always the best or the same price on your hotel website than on OTA’s.
3. Discounted rates to targeted travellers.
Booklyng.com, another start up from Barcelona, run by Francesco Canzoniere, also provides an elaborate technology to increase conversion on hotel website. Using a tracking solution, booklyng will present the searcher with an offer based on his/hers browsing history.
For example, a couple who has been searching for a 6 nights stay and is ready to leave the website, will get a pop-up message offering a 15% discount on their 6 nights stay. Those targeted offers can also be shown depending on the source of origin of travellers (e.g. google organic, google ads, trivago…).
4. Choose your own room by booking direct.
In 2014, Hilton made its own internal research and found out that 84% of people said they would choose their room if they were given the option (3) copying what was already proposed by airlines and selection of seats.
By end of 2014, Hilton had launched this solution and enabled guests to select their preferred room using Hilton HHonors app or Hilton website from 6 am the day before the beginning of the stay. Traveller are able to see photos of the room as well as floor plans.
For the history, UK hotel group Glh hotels was the first to launch this functionality at Thistle Euston in November 2014. As an evolution and improvement of this idea, in July 2016, Glh launched “Choose your Own Room” before making a reservation.
Iberostar offers a similar service called My Room Online , available from five days before 10am on check-in date. This functionality is available on a selected number of rooms in each properties when you book on their website or via their Call centre.
5. Check in Online before arrival
Online check-in service makes the arrival procedure faster and more convenient. Marriott has been an industry’s first to test this service on its mobile apps in June 2013 for some properties of their flagship brand Marriott Hotels. IHG followed during autumn 2014 and choose to provide this service to their Elite Members (Gold & Platinum) on selected hotels. Elite members can also request an early check-in and get notification when their room is ready.
Hilton has also been an industry first by introducing digital check-in with room selection in July 2015.
6. Digital Key
Digital Key has been introduced in July 2015 to some selected Hilton properties. It enables the client to open the hotel bedroom door with his/hers mobile phone, thanks to Hilton Mobile apps. This functionality goes further to make a check in even faster and a smoother arrival.
Do not hesitate to contact me by PM if you want more information or add comments if I missed some other relevant initiatives.