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.
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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