Back to the Future: 5 signs your hotel’s online distribution strategy is stuck in 1985

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By Matt Hawkins, SiteMinder Product Team

Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially arrived in the future.

By now, Marty McFly and Doc Brown have landed their flying DeLorean and are getting a bite to eat at Cafe 80’s.

And while futuristic marvels like the hoverboard and flying cars have come into existence, the movie failed to predict one of the greatest technological advancements in history…the Internet. Since its creation, the Internet continues to transform almost every aspect of our lives.

The key question is, are you changing with it and preparing your hotel for the future, or is your approach to technology stuck in 1985?

Here are 5 signs that you desperately need to get your hotel’s online distribution back to the future:

1. You rely heavily on traditional booking channels

The telephone, walk-ins, that ad in the local paper, the occasional email inquiry. If these are the only channels your hotel is relying on, here comes a wake up call. You need to get online right now! Stop what you’re doing and contact any one of these channels.

Now you might say, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, but research tells us it will be “broke” in the not-too-distant future. According to the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, traditional channels will continue to see an inevitable decline as consumers increasingly switch to online bookings and the many benefits it offers.

Infact, according to the recent Skift report sponsored by SiteMinder, we’ve already seen an 8% drop in telephone reservations, coinciding with a 7% increase in hotel website bookings, and the research suggests that shift is only going to continue. In summary, if you’re not selling your hotel rooms online, you’re going to miss out in the future…big time.

2. You don’t have a direct booking engine

A direct booking engine, integrated with your hotel’s website, can be one of your most effective channels with a lower cost of acquisition than your average online travel agent (OTA). You might be asking, “Do I really need both a direct booking engine, and an OTA?”, and the answer is yes, you do. Here’s why.

You may have heard of the billboard effect, if not, it simply means guests will often search for a hotel’s direct booking site, after finding the hotel on an OTA. So the OTA is acting like a billboard, indirectly promoting a hotel’s direct booking channel. Why do customers do this? The Skift report, sponsored by SiteMinder, suggests the primary reason is that guests are looking for a better deal. The strategy here is simple, if your property is already on a couple of OTAs, it’s well worth investing the time and effort into integrating a direct booking channel, like SiteMinder’s TheBookingButton, with your website. By utilising a direct booking engine, and being competitive with  the OTAs, your direct channel could begin to generate your most profitable bookings.

3. You manually manage your booking channels

Maybe you are connected to some OTAs, and you might even have your own direct booking engine, but you’re managing these channels manually. No doubt this is an arduous task, and the thought of broadening your online distribution brings on somewhat of a stress attack. Well the bad news is that by avoiding the wide array of online booking channels, including OTAs, metasearch, and direct channels, you’re missing out on increased occupancy, revenue, and profit.

The good news is that expanding your online presence doesn’t have to be stressful. The Channel Manager by SiteMinder offers seamless integrations to more than 250 of the world’s best booking websites. With a 14-day free trial including setup, training, and connection to your existing channels, there’s really no excuse not to give it a try. Automating your channel management, can save you time, and make your hotel more profitable by allowing you to expand your reach through online distribution.

4. Nobody ‘likes’ you

Now you might be a very likeable person (and we don’t doubt it for a second!), but if you’re not promoting your accommodation on social media it’s very possible that you’ve never been ‘liked’. Before you shrug-off social media as a fad, it’s worth considering that only last month Facebook had one billion users logged-in at once…as in 1,000,000,000. It’s not just the volume of people that makes social media valuable, people look to their ‘friends’ for advice and share experiences, especially when it comes to travel (as explained in this cool infographic). It’s for this reason that SiteMinder’s TheBookingButton can easily be integrated with your social media pages, making you very likeable indeed (#winning). You can learn more about maximising your social media exposure here.

5. You’re a ‘no star’ hotel

The recent rise of review websites, like TripAdvisor (which had 65 million unique visitors last year), has had a huge effect on the travel industry. According to research conducted by brightlocal.com, “the star rating is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business”. And they’re not talking about the old The Seven Stars Galleria system. These days it’s the star rating in online reviews that counts. With 92% of consumers reading online reviews, you’d have to be seeing stars not to take this trend seriously.

TripAdvisor is a great place to start, and it’s quite possible that some of your guests have already reviewed you there. By taking control of your TripAdvisor business listing, you’ll be able to better promote your property on this popular website. But that’s just the beginning.

Earlier this year TripAdvisor launched TripConnect instant booking (see 10 things you need to know about TripConnect instant booking), allowing guests to book accommodation directly on the TripAdvisor website. Before you begin stressing about another channel you need to manage, take a deep breath and exhale, TripConnect instant booking connects seamlessly to The Channel Manager by SiteMinder(…and continue breathing normally).

The Internet moves fast, and if you’re not being proactive with your online distribution,  you could find yourself left behind. However, getting up to date with the latest online distribution strategies doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

Just like Back to the Future, the moral to this blog is the actions you take today can drastically effect your future reality (or potentially tear a hole in the space-time continuum).

 

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