Why Developing Your Distribution Strategy Matters for your Hotel

What's happening to your conversion rate?Hey, hotel folks. Do you hate your channel “partners?” Do you feel like they “force” you to sign agreements you don’t want to?

If so, you’re not alone.

And, that’s a shame.

Because most channel partners (OTA’s, traditional travel agents, group and meeting planners, etc.) are actually good folks trying to help place business in your hotel.

No, seriously.

Now, it’s not to say that every market manager from every OTA treats every hotel like they treat their best friends. But, usually, these folks’ success depends upon having enough inventory in their market to meet a wide array of guest needs.

And that need represents your opportunity to negotiate favorable terms. The challenge, of course, is that many hotels lack a cohesive distribution strategy. Instead of understanding their best customers and taking the steps to diversify the sources of those best customers — in particular, placing an emphasis on those guests delivered via direct channels — hotels often sign myriad agreements and pay the most attention to the channels delivering the most business. Some channel partners recognize this dependence and push for terms that both increase their profit (and, to be fair, what business wouldn’t?), while simultaneously increasing their hotel partners’ dependence on the channel.

So don’t do that.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. But there are ways to break the cycle. And that’s the point of my latest Travel Tuesday post over on Tim Peter Thinks: “How to Take Charge of Your Distribution Strategy.” Give it a read if get a minute.

If you need help developing your hotel’s distribution strategy (or some other part of your digital marketing), give me a call at 201-305-0055.

And if you’re interested in learning more about travel marketing and where it’s going—as well as lessons that apply to a host of other industries—register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of these changes in the marketplace, including:

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The Benefits of Upselling

Want to make more money from your customers? Here’s a frequently overlooked tip: Ask them for more. That’s the essential premise behind a new white paper I’ve written in conjunction with HSMAI and Nor1 called, “When More is More: Upselling as a Sales and Marketing Tactic.”

Upselling involves more than just asking, of course. The real keys involve understanding the value of your offering to customers and making the right offer at the right time. While technology plays a key role in executing most effectively, so does having the right people, culture, and insights about your customers. Check out the write-up over on Thinks, if you get a moment.

And if you’re interested in learning more about travel marketing and where it’s going — as well as lessons that apply to a host of other industries, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World” here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of these changes, including:

Why Mobile Matters for Travel Marketers

App use on iphoneAnyone who’s read this blog (or the main blog), knows that I think mobile’s going to be huge. All signs point to that fact.

Not “forecast.” Or “prediction.” Or “guess.”

Fact.

Whether it’s Booking.com tripling its mobile business last year or (according to Business Travel News), Choice getting 10% of its bookings from mobile or La Quinta getting 23% of its traffic from mobile, mobile is beginning to represent some meaningful numbers.

And as the Business Travel News article linked above highlights, the growth these players shared “…does not take into account the growing volume of bookings from third-party mobile sites and apps, available not only from the legacy online travel agencies but the ever-expanding list of startups targeting the hotel sector.”

Guests and passengers and travelers in general use mobile because it helps them accomplish their goals. Both research and my experience suggest that consumers no longer care about “channels” or, for that matter, devices. They’ll use whatever’s handy — desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone — to meet their needs. In fact, Pew notes that a growing number of people use their mobile phone as their primary means of accessing the Internet, bypassing the desktop altogether (while some of Pew’s research in this area refers primarily to teens, A. it’s also true many older demographics use “cell-mostly” internet, and B. Gen Y and Millennial demographic cohorts represent your customers in just a few years).

Why do travelers use mobile so much?

Because it’s always at hand.

Literally.

So, the fact remains, your guests and passengers increasingly rely on mobile to research, shop, browse, and buy travel and related services. The question is: Are you helping them?

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of mobile, including:

Wentworth Mansion Ranked #1 “Top Small City Hotel” and #12 “Best Hotel in the World” In Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2012 World’s Best Awards

OK. So, I’m a little giddy that one of my fabulous clients, The Wentworth Mansion ® in Charleston, SC, was ranked #1 “Top Small City Hotel” and #12 “Best Hotel in the World” in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2012 World’s Best Awards. Good stuff and very well deserved for an amazing group of people.

You should check out their recently launched new website or Like them on Facebook when you get the chance.

Google now offers airlines a CRS platform. Is this a Good Thing?

OK, this I didn’t see coming. Google just built its first airline CRS. Big G has worked with Cape Air to provide a reservation system,

‘That may not look all that different from other airlines’ systems on the surface, but Google says that there’s plenty different going on under the hood, noting that it was built “from scratch using modern, modular, scalable technologies.” That last bit is perhaps the key one, with Google further adding that the system is “built to scale to support airlines of all sizes.”‘ [Emphasis mine]

On many levels, this makes loads of sense both for airlines and for Google. The search giant offers server power and engineering talent on a scale unlike, well, just about anyone. And what better way “…to organize the world’s information and make it universally available” (Google’s stated mission), than get airline information (and, eventually, I would assume, hotel information and car rental information and…) directly from the source.

Further, I can imagine many airline executives (and hotel executives and car rental executives and…) drooling over the notion of letting Google do all the heavy lifting on the tech front. And the idea of the large players in the space (Sabre, Amadeus, IBS, etc.) facing further competition is a good thing. Isn’t it?

Probably.

The one possible downside here is that for airlines (and hotel companies and car rental companies and…), Google represents one of their largest advertising partners, too, with huge market share for search, display and mobile advertising dollars.

Giving Google access to all inventory, rate and passenger data could potentially lower distribution and reservations systems costs for its future customers. But it could also potentially cost a lot more for advertising, too, as Google learns more and more and more about these businesses.

Which is definitely something to watch in the coming months and years.

BBC – Travel – The free Wi-Fi war

The BBC looks at free WiFi (or the lack thereof) among hotel brands in an article called, “The free Wi-Fi war”. The article opens:

“Ask any business traveller about his or her biggest travel-related gripes and you’ll undoubtedly find hotel fees for in-room Internet access near the top of the list.

As much as travellers (and travel writers) squawk about how wrong it feels to have to pay for something that has become as basic to a hotel stay as hot water, the hotel industry has resisted – especially at the high-end.

But I think we might have reached a tipping point in the war against these fees.”