Mike Murray, founder of hotel booking app/website Vir.al. Mike Murray, founder of hotel booking app/website Vir.al.

Changes in technology and consumer behaviour are now creating new ways for hotels and OTAs to work together.

There is a new breed of online booking channels emerging that exist to provide hotels with the valuable service of increased bookings, as well as the technology to bring hotels and guests closer together.

What benefits do these new breeds of online booking channels offer?

They charge lower commission rates

Enough said, right?

Story continues below

They offer greater value to both hotels and bookers.

There are hundreds of online booking sites and apps that consumers can use when booking a hotel stay; there are the same number of options for hotels when choosing where to list their rooms.

The new breed of booking channel offers true value to hotels and consumers, making them more attractive for both parties. Consumers get hotel rates and property features which build affinity to the brand, while hotels get access to technology and customer data that boost bookings and guest loyalty. The channel partner becomes the enabler of this win-win relationship and, of course, participates in the revenue stream and customer awareness.

 Value-added hotel services offered by some of the new breed of online booking channels include:

Tools to identify high-value, socially active consumers. These types of customers are more likely to review and/or recommend a property online and are more likely to share photos and videos via their social media accounts which, in turn, will help influence their followers to consider making a similar trip purchase.

Access to customer history, profiles, and preferences so that hotels can tailor their offers and services to preferred guests.

The ability to send targeted messages and notifications with personalised offers that increase loyalty and bookings.

Capabilities that enable hotels to provide complete travel experiences, rather than just a place for guests to lay their heads at night. This is a key differentiator because millennials (identified as one of the fastest growing travel demographics) place more importance on experiences rather than material goods or luxury.

Helping hotels to leverage the benefits of social influencer marketing, which involves inspiring consumers to (indirectly) sell your product via their social media posts or recommendations – a tactic which has been shown to have significant influence over millennials’ booking decisions. 

In addition to offering services that benefit the hotel, these new online booking channels offer value-added services, transforming the guests’ travel experience, including:

More in-depth understanding about the destination that they are travelling to. Millennial travellers want to know about and experience the local culture in every destination they visit. Providing this information in an informative, non-salesy manner can make all the difference between a potential guest booking with your property or the competition.

Ability to create and share user-generated content (UGC) about the property and the experience they had. This benefits socially active customers because they are being rewarded for doing something that they already love (being active on social media and sharing their travel experiences). It also increases loyalty to the new booking channels going forward, which results in more bookings for hotels.

Mobile tools that improve the hotel guest experience like mobile check-in/-out, chat messaging with concierge and other on-property services.

Don’t encourage a race-to-the-bottom in pricing

Today’s smart hoteliers have realised the benefits of more direct and partner-friendly sales channels where they can offer promotional rates and value-adds to incentivise consumers to book – while earning more revenue from each booking secured.

While consumers realise that better deals are to be had via direct and partner-friendly channels, hotels should not emphasise discounting as a strategy to increase bookings. It is not a smart revenue management strategy as it diminishes a property’s brand value in the minds of consumers. It also creates a downward spiral, as discounting strategies usually result in a race-to the-bottom price  war that won’t stop until hotels are undercutting their bottom lines and eroding their financial performance.

Consequently, it is evident that there is a new breed of emerging online booking channels that want to partner with hotels and develop a mutually beneficial relationship, which, in turn, will benefit potential guests and boost the properties’ brand loyalty.

Story continues below