The OTA Sandwich

News / February 15, 2014

Contributor/ The Vulture

There are a lot of reasons why people won’t stay at your hotel twice. The receptionist who raises an eyebrow at the red eyes of the guest off the redeye. The bar staff who chat to each other instead of taking orders. The room service club sandwich which takes an hour to arrive. Hotels pretend its an art, but there’s no art to treating guests like humans.

But that’s another story for another day. The one reason why people won’t stay isn’t because they booked their room through an OTA, although to listen to the whining of hotels, you would think this was the case. Hotels complain that customers loyalty is being thieved from them. Every conference this millennium has had a panel on OTAs and that panel is always three operators dragging a sobbing OTA representative to the stocks.

On the sly, however, things are changing. The OFT’s recent investigation into IHG, Expedia and Booking.com revealed two things: one, hotels aren’t defenseless victims and two, the online hotel sector is far too complex for the OFT to deal with. The OFT secured some commitments which will secure reduced rooms for people who like filling in forms, effectively rubber-stamped rate parity and then left us all to get on with it.

And getting on with it is what the sector has been doing, on the sly. You see, it turns out that using an OTA doesn’t mean bending over and forking out 25% before you’ve even had a chance to look askance at your bedraggled guest.

By coming up with a channel management strategy, you don’t have to hand ALL your rooms to them. But you can still benefit from the vast marketing budget that the OTAs have (and you can only dream of) to draw attention to your property. Priceline spent close to $1bn with Google last year. Nice eh? Marriott has less than 10% of its inventory listed with OTAs, but gets huge visibility through that 10%. IHG (and nine other operators) have just done a deal with HotelTonight.

OTAs need your hotel. You need marketing. The guest needs a hot club sandwich. Can’t we all just get along?

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The Vulture
A darkened corner of a hotel bar. A shiny shoe-tip poking out. A nod when a fresh gin is delivered. This is The Vulture. Read more Contributor page

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