A recent study conducted by Expedia Group claimed travelers are 57% more likely to book a hotel via an OTA than before the pandemic, as a result of emerging traveler booking motivations such as:
* To get the best nightly rate (69%)
* To get the best room (40%)
* To compare properties in one location (35%)
Other motivations include earning reward points (32%), one-stop shopping (28%), direct promotions (26%), and buying a bundled offer, such a flight and hotel, in one transaction (25%).
Traditionally, the OTAs have emerged stronger after all of the previous crisis and calamities: 9/11, SARS, MERS, the recession, ZIKA, H1N1. The main reason is that travel suppliers - especially hoteliers - panic too easy, shut down their marketing efforts due to budget cuts, and run for help to the OTAs. In post-calamity periods, hoteliers are more willing to work with the OTAs, to discount and provide the OTA with sales promotions (24- or 48-hour sale, etc.) without promoting these same sales via the direct channel due to lack of marketing budget. All of this allows the OTAs to convince the traveling public that they can find the lowest rates on the OTA sites/apps - rates they cannot find elsewhere.
What can hoteliers do? Hoteliers should continue to maintain rate parity and invest in omni-channel marketing campaigns. All discounts or promotions you provide to the OTAs should also be promoted in the direct channel: Hotel website, content marketing, SEM, online media, social media, CRM and loyalty marketing. Travel consumers are shopping around (45 digital interactions before making a hotel booking - Google Research 2019) and omni-channel marketing gives the hotel an equal to the OTAs chance to engage the travelers throughout the Digital Customer Journey and its five phases (Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing Phases), eventually acquire and retain them.
Especially now, it is not difficult to be creative and figure out what your customers want and need - they, like all of us, have been locked at home for most of the past 7 months. We have all been there and you can easily come up with enticing packages and special offers based on what your guests would love to do and experience at your property and its surroundings in the current environment.
Remember, the OTAs have one huge disadvantage: in spite of all of their technology and marketing might, they do not know your hotel product and your destination like you do.
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