The Blueprints for a Robust Direct-to-consumer Online Distribution Strategy

By Max Starkov President & CEO, Hospitality eBusiness Strategies Inc | January 27, 2012

As a result, many hoteliers cede control of their inventory and pricing property to online intermediaries, at an enormous cost financially and to brand integrity. Website optimization is the first step toward building a robust direct online distribution strategy.

Direct Online Distribution Should Become the Focus of Hoteliers' Internet Strategy

This year over 13% of all revenues in hospitality will be generated from the Internet. Three years from now the Internet will generate over 20% of all hotel bookings (PhoCusWright).

Roughly 52% of all online bookings in 2002-2003 will be completed directly through hotel-sponsored websites. Forrester Research confirms that people who book online prefer to use a supplier website over intermediaries.

Forrester Research: "Which of the following types of websites have you used to book travel in the past year?"

If your hotel is not generating at least 53% of its online bookings directly from the hotel website, but from intermediaries, then you are not competitive on the Web and run the risk of long term price and brand erosion.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.