Sharpen Your Hotel Distribution Strategies for 2014

By Michael McCartan Managing Director Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Duetto | February 16, 2014

2013 was the year the big OTAs got bigger, social media remained elusive, last minute mobile bookings became a reality and meta search went main stream. The hot topic at all the travel trade shows and industry events was how do hotels work with these channels while trying to push more conversions through their direct channels, specifically the brand.com site.

Well, if you think 2014 will be different you are in for a surprise! When defining strategies for the upcoming year, we tend to think that trends would change dramatically. However, that’s not the case. While new technology and platforms of distribution may emerge suddenly, the overall distribution strategies should still be based on the channels that offer measurable ROI. Whether it is direct v/s indirect, mobile v/s social, yes or no to meta-search - understanding the intricacies of each of these channels is essential in developing a strategy that will be unique to your hotel. And of course you cannot forget to optimize your channel mix and get ‘more for less’!

Here are a few things I consider hotels should look at while drawing up their 2014 distribution strategies:

Mobile & the Rise of Same Day Bookings

The travel industry is regarded as one of the most efficiently managed e-commerce sectors, particularly for its use of various technologies in securing conversions across several booking platforms. One of our recent infographics showed that 65% travelers choose their mobile phone for same day hotel bookings. The rise of mobile users have impacted the business strategy and changed customer behavior largely. While this provides an additional platform for hoteliers to reach out to newer target segments, it also brings along the challenge of understanding what makes these travellers tick. Mobile is certainly gaining ground across the travel space especially in relation to last minute reservations. High end smartphones and intelligent mobile apps have made it easier for users to experience on-the-go shopping and travel booking. Hotels should pick up a trick or two from channel partners and travel intermediaries in this respect - Kayak’s mobile apps, for instance, are very popular and have a high download number. It is unlikely that a hotel’s own app will attract anywhere near this level of interest but hotels still need to take notice and ensure they add mobile as an important channel for distribution without falling prey to heavy discounting to capture their share of those same day bookings. Smart phones and tablets are going to be the game changer in online travel booking

OTAs – You Just Can’t Live Without Them

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.