Hospitality industry is undergoing a rapid change. The growing technological influences in online search are shaping the future of hotel room distribution. Compared to only half a decade ago, travel plans of people are increasingly getting influenced by the internet. New web-based technologies are coming up to bring the center of power with the travelers. 2015 will take people’s dependence on technology for satisfying their wanderlust to the next level. Most people, save a few affluent travelers, will have shifted to online hotel sales platforms and online travel agents for their travel bookings. How you manage your distribution and marketing channels will have a huge impact on your profits and your ability to stay competitive in an increasingly consolidated industry.
Hotels just like people will need to adopt technology to gain an edge against competition. In fact the stage for competition is going to be online, all else would be left far behind. Today hotels have numerous options to choose from to work out the most profitable hotel room distribution strategy. While this brings in a lot of opportunity, it also creates the need for hotels to stay updated with technology and leverage it to the fullest. Smarter hotel channel management is the need of the hour and those who will be able to deploy it, will stand tall in the year 2015.
Remember to incorporate these elements into your hotel room distribution strategy this year.
The hotel’s booking engine should be the focus of your distribution strategy. Agreed, every hotel focuses on increasing direct bookings, but this year the opportunities to grow your hotel’s direct revenue truly stand out.
So, the first step, build an outstanding website. Hospitality is about delivering an experience. Build your website in the same way. Keep the user interface as clutter-free as possible. While de-cluttering your website don’t forget to strategically place call-to-action buttons. Include a lot of imagery that builds anticipation in your guest’s minds and heart.
Remember that every page on your website can be the landing page for a potential customer. Hence, every page of your website as such should be designed to convert the potential guest into your guest. On the payment end, invest in a safe and efficient payment gateway.
Having TripAdvisor feed on your website is also a good idea. A 3rd party endorsement is a great way to assure potential of their choice and could prove to be pivotal in converting leads.
Keep in mind that the trend in accessing the internet is shifting to smartphones, so ensure your website is responsive and delivers the same experience across different screens.
Next, you need to increase your visibility on the web. Make your website SEO-friendly and use Google Business to list your hotel. The new Google knowledge graph and ads for hotels makes sure that users don’t have to look around much to find what they want, so ensure that you stay in Google’s good books. Investing a little in Google Ads can also help lead visitors directly to your websites.
Next you need to push yourself out on all OTAs. But wait; wasn’t this all about direct bookings? Yes it still is. As a hotelier you cannot completely ignore the OTAs and their role in your distribution strategy is coming up in a little bit. However, being displayed prominently in OTA searches can also help you with direct bookings, thanks to the billboard effect. Users often visit hotel websites after discovering a hotel on OTAs and that is when you stand a good chance of sending them directly to your hotel’s online booking engine.
The last step to your direct revenue strategy is going to be the meta-search engines like TripAdvisor. Meta-search engines are turning out to be travelers’ favorite tool to look for information of new destinations and more importantly for you, accommodation options in those destinations. There is absolutely no way you can ignore meta-search engines. You need to be present there and aim to collect as many reviews as you can to stay at the top of search results.
Today’s users are splitting their times across multiple screens. Every device is a separate touch point and should be integrated into your hotel’s distribution strategy as such. Each screen has its own set of limitations and advantages and therefore each device should be kept in mind while creating customer touch points.
Online travel agents like MakeMyTrip and Expedia have completely stolen the market share from offline travel agents. In a time where offline travel agents are dying, it is important to maintain your presence on these channels to avoid missing out on business. Distributing inventory across the many channels available, however, is the crux of the matter. And by distribution we do not mean an occasional update on the OTAs as and when time permits. You really need to push out all the room inventory out there to get the most benefit out of OTAs. As a part of your distribution strategy this year, make sure you are pushing out room inventory to all the online channels that are available, analyse which ones are most profitable and continue to push inventory there.
Tapping on corporate travel will inch closer to your reach this year. Corporate travel, for most part, has almost always eluded independent hotels. That’s because in cases of corporate travel a corporate structure is determined between larger hotels and the businesses. However, business requirements are now changing and often a flexibility in terms of travel is required. Also things like corporate retreats are gaining traction in the Indian corporate culture. This has resulted in corporates dealing with corporate travel management companies. Although, still to catch up, the consumerisation of business travel is in progress and you should be on a look out to add that to channel to your distribution partner’s list this year.
This is going to be, perhaps, the most important inclusion to the distribution strategies of hotels this year. Most hotels have complete market data and knowledge to identify the most important channels. Where they are unable to cope up is actually managing these channels. Merely strategizing is not going to sell your rooms, an intuitive channel manager that automates the entire channel management process for your hotel is what is going to power your entire distribution strategy. A fully automated channel management software will ensure optimum allocation of inventory and room rates across channels and allow your hotel to remain profitable and competitive even when you are not able to pay attention. Not only does it make the entire sales process easy to handle, it also provides real-time data which further improves distribution capabilities of a hotel.
You need to find time to stay abreast of what’s going on in the market. 2015 is slated to bring in a slew of new product offerings for hotel distribution. Changes are coming for sure and you need to be ready to take control of the ship when the tides change. Both Amazon and Google have plans to get into the travel game with all the force. You need to be quick to react, understand the implications for your hotel and adopt these new developments into your distribution strategy.
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