Distribution channels are channels are changing rapidly making the revenue manager’s job challenging but creative at the same time! Tracking the source of business through these will require more specific rate codes BUT what if one or more of the distribution channels isn’t really a distribution channel in the traditional sense of the word ?
In an article in Hotel News Now (Jason Q Freed, 2/14/11), the title said it all “Google will change your distribution strategy”. To be more specific, Google has indicated that it will not become an OTA however, it now has a division called Google Travel. Google Places has info on rates through various booking channels and links as well as Google reviews – so is it a distribution channel, a review site or a genetic hybrid? Confused yet?
Mobile apps allow our customers to log in and make a booking, a dinner reservation etc. but first it must be made sure that the web site is ‘mobile optimized’ which means that because Mr. Jobs has an issue with Adobe Flash, web sites that have flash don’t present well on iPhones or iPads.
If the new FaceBook booking functionality made possible by changing its code from FBML to iFrames isn’t the best thing since sliced bread it’s a close second for hotels. As well, it is a tool that serves the small independents equally as well as the large franchise properties. An examination of each one should provide insight into maximizing the opportunities that each presents:
Google is becoming the 1,000 pound Gorilla in the online travel space – it even has Expedia worried. In the same article by in Hotel News Now (Jason Q Freed, 2/14/11) it quotes Expedia’s guidance to investors as follows “For example, Google, through its launch of Google Places and its proposed acquisition of ITA Software, .. could lead to diversion of customer traffic to their own websites. … In addition, if one or more large search engine begins to facilitate travel transactions on its own websites, it could also adversely affect our results.”
The issue is that we don’t exactly know what the gorilla will look like when all is said and done – we only are seeing parts of the animal. However, there are things to do now to ensure that the parts we know of are maximized:
Ensure that info is correct and the site is maximized with correct info and rates. When rates and info have become this transparent for the customer, parity becomes an issue. Take advantage of Google Tags to link to the booking engine of your site for example and upload as many photos as you can to give the customer the ‘look and feel’ of your hotel.
Google maps will offer real time rates for selected dates in the market will draw these from the OTAs and third party sites and display them in a pull down list If you are in a market where this will be rolled out in time for summer travel, make sure that your rates are in parity with all of the third party sites. These will e listed first, you hotel web site will be listed dead last. Why? The OTAs are advertisers on Google and individual hotels don’t have that clout. The good news is that you also have access to all of the competitor’s rates and ‘hot deals’ if they are promoting them online with an OTA.
This is 4 inches of online real estate that no hotel can ignore. It is an excellent way to keep your customers loyal and away from search. Promote it through your CRM and include it in email signatures so that a mobile customer can download the app free and stay connected to the hotel. Not only can it be used for fast reservations but also to upsell the guest to special rates on spa treatments, dinner and drink specials in order to generate incremental revenue from them while they are in house.
Facebook Booking Widget.
Sliced bread just got better! In order to get conversions the hotel needs to have a robust Fan base and people that ’Like’ it. In order to build that base, contests and games on the site keep people coming back so they can see your promotions and go directly to booking tab and make that reservation! While some of the franchise organizations have been slow to adapt, it is a boon for independents.
“In the last four weeks, for example, we had 207 people on Facebook who either booked or checked rates. That is big, since we are a 62-room property,” said Katarina Doumeng, director of sales, marketing and Internet at Bolongo Bay. (Hotel News Now, Christine Blank, 3/23/11)
As both Expedia and Trip Advisor now interface with Facebook ‘friend’ reviews, it should increase travel traffic to Facebook for travel related info. This makes it imperative that those hotels that want to maximize their opportunities this summer get a Facebook booking engine widget prior to the summer season. With the increase in air fares, many travelers are looking to make reservations further out than they have been so don’t wait too long to do this!
The best thing about the Facebook booking functionality is that the reservation is FREE as it goes straight to web site booking engine! It is now possible to monetize at least a part of social media engagement and its effectiveness.
This summer will be a competitive race to maximize share and REVPAR. Those hotels that adapt to the new methods of distribution will be the big winners – the rest will be left in the dust