Quick tips: getting the best out of hotel room distribution channels

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Boutique Hotel News was media partner for the 13th Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester, attended by around 800 industry professionals.

Distribution masterclass

Whilst catching up on all the latest hotel news,  we were drawn to the masterclass round table session entitled: Are you getting the best out of your distribution channels? Or is it time to switch channels to maximise your revenue streams? 

Moderated by Shona Whitehead, Cogent Blue the table experts featured Rupert Gutteridge, Guestline; Michael McCartan, Duetto; Jens Boecker, OTA Insight and Joao Trindade, GuestCentric Systems tasked with sharing their expertise on effective hotel distribution techniques.

Direct v OTA business

Everybody agreed hotel distribution is about finding the right balance between direct and OTA business, and to use OTA's more strategically in yielding one's hotel room inventory. " Identify every OTA booking in advance, text customers and aim to take over the relationship with your hotel. Hoteliers should ideally keep all OTA advance booking business" said Trindade. "Be strategic, ideally have all advance non-refundable hotel bookings available on OTA's, limiting refundable inventory" said McCartan.

"With around 50% of online bookings in Europe, Booking.com is the best OTA channel in my view, and not surprising hotels find most advance cancellations are from the same channel. 1 or 2 room left 'pop-up' discounts really work using the OTA channel - the impact is huge" said Trindade.

Cost of acquisition

The conversation moved onto the cost of acquisition, and the importance of hoteliers understanding their net rate and least / most profitable distribution channels. Attendees were reminded that the pursuit of direct bookings should be gradual and not 100% all-consuming as direct bookings can ultimately be more expensive without an OTA booking mix too. "Don't fight the OTA's. Priceline spends $2 billion+ USD to drive hotel bookings annually," said Trindade. 

Hotel bookers digital path

McCartan moved the conversation onto the travel bookers digital journey, and the importance of managing hotel reviews, "prior to booking, the traveller looks at up to 38 websites over 45 days, 10 hotel websites with 6 or more digital touchpoints - it's a multi dimensional purchase path." The general view was that hoteliers looking to drive advance direct bookings needed to get better with personal, relevant and timely communications, and OTAs will always hold the upper hand with choice, convenience and price selection criterias.

Personalised pricing the new loyalty

Gutteridge suggested a focus on more online personalisation, and tailored email messaging instead of generic communications. If your hotel website focuses on "engagement, experience and community it's a great way to drive content, which leads to booking - be unique relevant and timely. Personalised pricing is the new loyalty in the hotel casinos" said McCartan, referring to the more sophisticated revenue management approach to guests that hotel casinos adopt, offering numerous discounts or free stays based on how much they spend around the casino.

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