Wrestling Back Control from Online Travel Agents

Wrestling Back Control from Online Travel Agents

It’s been widely documented that many hotels are seeing more than 50% of all bookings coming directly via online travel agent platforms. With an average of 8% commission being taken by the platforms for each booking, this adds up to a huge amount of revenue lost for Hoteliers!

Despite strong OTA growth, hotels are not powerless in the battle for distribution. They are doubling down on a mix of direct booking campaigns and member-only rates in a hope this will lure travellers to their websites. So far, the impact of these strategies remains unclear. Some recent studies suggest direct booking campaigns have been effective. The real question is whether hoteliers stick with current direct bookings strategies or pivot to something new. While member-only rates serve as a creative way for hotels to bypass OTA rate parity agreements, questions remain regarding the offering of big discounts to the loyal customers that represent a core of the hotel business. Perhaps the biggest advantage hotels have is their ownership of the on-site guest experience. 

In 2020, hotels should continue to invest in the features and functionality that can drive loyalty, however, this is an incredibly difficult task. Customer expectations are high, and seemingly new hotel functionality such as mobile check-in, room selection, digital room keys, booking meetings online, for example, are quickly transitioning from cutting-edge to commonplace. Adding more to the guest experience and creating a full and immersive digital experience is vital.

What’s fast becoming apparent is the value to the traveller, whether it’s a business traveller looking for quick and efficient booking (often with a personal incentive of gaining freebies via the OTA platforms), or the tourist looking for the comparison with other sites, is in the ease of booking and the added value of how they book. More and more hotels are employing loyalty schemes to add value to the visitor. Here at SixPorts, we are seeing a huge increase in custom app solutions, there seem to be few choices out there for an “off the shelf” app solution. Every hotel and chain is unique and will pride itself on different areas, an app built to specification can incorporate innovative marketing tools such as Augmented Reality experiences of the public places in the hotel (or the rooms), the ancillary sales process for room upgrades, and other personal touches. Custom apps can also be used to simply make the booking process easier; a bespoke app solution is an excellent engagement and retention tool.

Managing conference facilities or even offering a “keyless” experience when using a hotel’s business facilities is another great retention and upsell tool to help with customer satisfaction. You can offer your visitors the ability to check room availability, reserve their conference facilities and order any additional equipment/tea services they might need, all simply through the app. Better still, is if the business traveller gains some personal reward or loyalty scheme points via the app too.

It’s hard to change consumer habits, converting a die-hard OTA visitor to a direct booker may seem almost impossible for their first visit, but with the right marketing effort and visibility on a custom app solution for the hotel, you can encourage those visitors to re-book their subsequent trips via the app. Techniques such as offering “app discount codes” or simply by pushing the virtues of all of the other advantages described above.

A mobile app is guaranteed to make life easier, however, there is still resistance from hotel owners and managers to develop one for their business. The travel industry is finally starting to recognise the all-encompassing nature of mobile devices within the guest booking journey.

While over 75% of properties admit the importance of an app, only a quarter are currently implementing one in their business strategy. This means there’s a significant opportunity for hotels to create a competitive advantage for themselves.

Here are some reasons your hotel should have a mobile app: 

  • Hotel apps offer a more optimised booking experience.
  • An app will help you track more guest data.
  • You can maintain brand awareness for your hotel.
  • Integrate your communication with an app.
  • Create a more effective guest loyalty program.
  • Use your app to act as a tour guide.
  • Adapt to any language.


If you are interested in a custom app for your hotel don’t hesitate to get in contact today.  

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