The fight for hotel bookings – direct vs online travel agencies
If I were to look at the world through the lens of Expedia and Booking.com, I would probably argue that my biggest competitors are not other OTAs or suppliers, but the hotels themselves.
I love this industry. The hotel technology sector must be one of the most rewarding, fluid and interesting spaces to be a part of. At SiteMinder, we have a mantra in the office that that there is never a boring day in hospitality IT – and this certainly holds true!
Like many of you, I’ve been watching with interest the commentary on the tug-o-war between hotels and OTAs for a bigger share of online bookings, particularly following recent acquisitions by Expedia and Priceline Group on behalf of booking.com.
We are all witnesses to the continual talk of the powerful duopoly that dominates the online hotel booking space, and the concerns that hotels have about its power.
These concerns have even been covered in mainstream press, especially within Europe where issues such as rate parity remain a point of contention and are still playing out.
I have also followed the debate between hotels on social media about how they can maintain a balanced distribution and online sales environment – ie one where they are not powerless in their dealings with the OTAs and can find a position where they can pick up a healthy share of direct bookings in addition to OTA-generated bookings.
And in the past few weeks, I was made aware of a further, albeit-seemingly-small development in the tussle between OTAs and hotels for the guest relationship – one I think is particularly notable and highlights how easily the hotel-guest relationship can be impacted.
The big OTAs’ biggest competition
What caught my attention was an announcement by Booking.com to its hotel customers that it would stop providing the hotel with the guest’s email address as part of the booking confirmation process. Booking.com cited security as the key reason for the change.
However, last week’s change means guest email addresses are invisible to hotel customers, which hampers the hotel’s ability to market directly to the guest via email.
Expedia, and other booking channels SiteMinder works with, continue to send the hotel the guest email address as part of the reservations process, but could they follow suit?
While it may seem a small and innocuous change in information flow, changes like this effect the power balance between OTAs and hotels and show how easily that balance can be upset.
Of course, hotels could implement strict front desk processes to try and manually capture the guest email address upon arrival, but many hotels may not think to do this or be motivated to take on the extra overhead.
There are many exciting new marketing and sales cloud platforms available to hoteliers to engage returning guests online and offer personalised experiences. But many depend on the quality of guest data within the hotel system to be effective.