New Technologies to Improve Relationships and Bottom Lines

By Toni Portmann Chief Executive Officer, DHISCO, Inc. | June 11, 2017

If there has been one constant since the dawn of online travel agencies, it probably would be the often tense, love-hate relationship between online travel agencies and hotel companies.

Historically, hotel companies embraced these partners to boost sales in the down times. Yet they often bristle at high OTA commissions and the loss of control over their customers during the boom times.Take 2016, for instance: it may best be remembered as the year the worlds major hotel companies launched aggressive campaigns to drive customers away from OTAs to their branded sites. Most major chains now offer perks to guests who booked direct, while imposing penalties like withholding frequent-traveler points to those who book on third-party sites.
In response, some OTAs quit sharing some information about their customers, including the email addresses of the guests who are booking through their websites.

Its the latest twist in an ongoing power play and one that reignites lingering feuds and questions over who actually owns the guest. While OTAs and hotel companies likely will debate that question for years to come, I would argue that no one and everyone owns a piece of the guest. And the debate is about much more than guest email.

New Technologies

As the number of business-to-business players in the travel landscape rises, the chain of third parties involved in the travel search and booking process will only continue to grow as consumers demand rich content, Siri-style help via artificial intelligence, multilingual translations and other advances to ease the planning, booking and real-time travel process via smartphones, tablets and computers.

At DHISCO Inc., our main role has been and always will be that of intermediary, connecting hotels and OTAs and developing the technologies to help them facilitate their transactions. Every day we see the importance of technology as the bridge, making it easier for hotels and OTAs to work more closely and amicably -- to manage inventory, rates and revenue and process transactions and share content.

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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.