Taking Back Online Bookings From OTAs

Independent hotels need excellent web design and digital marketing in order to compete with OTAs. It is good for them to take advantage of services like buuteeq. Image by Lestat (Jan Mehlich); Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 When traveling, how do you book a hotel room? Probably the way most of us do—through online travel agencies (OTAs). This consumer trend is costing independent hotel owners a significant margin of their profit. The solution to reclaim this margin is for guests to book directly from a hotel’s own website, but this won’t happen until hotels invest in better digital marketing—something most hotel owners don’t even know they need to do.

Most independent hotels can be found on OTAs like Travelocity, Expedia and Tripadvisor. The tragic thing for the innkeeper is that they are losing cash every time a guest books a room from an OTA, because hoteliers actually pay OTAs, in the form of channel and qualifying rates, to list their rooms. Alternatively, it is 10-15 times cheaper* for hoteliers to secure reservations directly from their own hotel website, but despite this, the popularity of OTAs has actually risen–45% since 2008*. Guests use the same internet to find hotel websites as they do to find OTAs. One would think that most hoteliers would place their time and energy into their own sites, but they don’t. Why?

This is an example of an awful animated gif as typically seen in really bad hotel web design. Please, spare us all and do NOT use them on your hotel website. Animated by J-E Nyström. CC-BY-SA-2.5Because hoteliers are hoteliers, not web designers. Google your favorite local inn or bed & breakfast and see if you can find their website (if they have one). After sifting through two pages of OTAs and traditional travel agencies, you may find it. Click on it—I’m willing to bet that it looks like some hastily constructed GeoCities website from the 90’s. It probably has an animated gif of a horse awkwardly running, uses thirteen different artistic fonts that can’t be read, and might even have…*gulp*…midi-music.
The hard truth is that if you ignore online marketing, you’re sunk. In 2008 alone, 70% of all hotel reservations were made online*, and that number has only gone up since. What’s more, 75 million people browse the internet on smart phones, and that number is expected to go up to 100 million by 2014*. A recent survey discovered that 56% of business travelers book rooms on mobile phones* (a number which, again, can only go up), but most hotel websites aren’t optimized for mobile browsing.

Hoteliers must embrace digital marketing, including mobile and social marketing, if they want to compete. It can be intimidating, but forging a distinct web presence that is up-to-date, search-engine friendly and offers direct bookings is the only way to beat the competition. Hoteliers can use services like buuteeq to take care of their digital marketing for them, or use content management systems like WordPress to do it themselves—either way, hoteliers can no longer ignore digital marketing if they want to survive.

 

Resources

  • Mobile–The New King of Hotel Bookings?
  • Mobile Fast Stats
  • Can Hoteliers Take Back the Initiative from OTAs?

As seen as How to Waste Cash as a Hotel Owner — OTAs on Technorati.

About Brandon Dennis

Brandon M. Dennis is the Technical Marketing Manager at buuteeq, the digital marketing system for hotels. He manages buuteeq’s SEO, paid media channels, contributes content, and writes for the company blog. You can connect with him on Twitter @oxhorn.

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