It's Time to Re-imagine the OTA / Hotel Relationship

By Bill Linehan Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Red Lion Hotels Corporation | June 18, 2017

The Marketplace is Changing and OTAs are Growing

The hospitality marketplace is changing. We all have heard about the hotel brand consolidation, from Marriott and Starwood to RLH Corporation’s very own acquisition of Vantage Hospitality’s brands last fall. But it is not just hotel brands consolidating, so are Online Travel Agent ( OTA ) marketplaces.

The average consumer visits 140 different travel sites during the purchase journey, with 30% of these sites being OTAs; Expedia and Priceline Group now control over 70% of the OTA market; Expedia’s sites, which include Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotwire, among others, attract 94 million unique visitors per month; more online travel bookers visit OTAs than brand.com sites the week before and the week of their booking; OTAs are the most influential online resource in bookers’ destination decisions; American leisure travelers visit OTA sites more than brand.com when researching on personal computers, smartphones and tablets; the facts go on and on.

The OTAs are using different channels to target various buyer personas across virtually every segment and demographic. This means hotel companies need to focus even more on delivering the total guest experience and leverage marketplace opportunities to connect with consumers like never before. Websites and mobile apps should create an optimal shopping experience that instills confidence in the consumer. And we must continue to achieve best-in-class omni-channel marketing while focusing more on how and what we communicate to build consumer-brand relationships, rather than simply focus on the transaction.

Omni-Channel Marketing

So, what exactly is omni-channel marketing? The term refers to a significant shift: marketers now need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Consumers can engage with a company in a physical store, online, via their phones or tablets, through a catalog, or through social media. Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary, and, when properly deployed, the approach can drive sales, create brand equity and achieve best-in-class margins.

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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.