Friend or foe?

money_bag_401(K)2012_blue’s money bag keeps growing’s rise in Europe seems to be unstoppable. Though they may sometimes resent its dominance, it has offered big new opportunities for independent hotels and B&Bs in particular. Smaller properties that can’t rely on the “brand” advertising of a large chain are able to use as a platform to massively increase their visibility. They frequently pay a pretty big cut for the privilege, but there’s always the opportunity to convert customers into repeat, direct bookers.

There are signs, however, that is trying to control hoteliers – and squeeze them financially – more and more. Some of its strategies are outlined by Pedro Colaco (president of GuestCentric) in a recent guest article for travel tech website Tnooz…

“’s flat commission model has been replaced by one of bidding for on the first page of a destination. It is not infrequent that hotels pay over 20% in commission to be on the first page of the recommended properties in their city.”

This is a worrying trend. And it’s not the only one, as Colaco concedes: “ recently reserved the right to automatically resell a room that one of its customers has cancelled, apparently to protect the commission. also changed the information policy and now blocks access to the customer’s information – e.g. by eliminating a customer’s email address, apparently to prevent direct contact between hotels and customers.”

The challenge, for independent accommodation owners in particular, is how to use to their advantage without allowing it to squeeze their margins into non-existence. Colaco suggests a variety of strategies, including having the best possible website (which we’ve covered on before), being mobile-friendly (ditto) and having a social media presence. But perhaps his most interesting piece of advice relates to sale channels:

“It is vital to diversify channels, and ensure that your hotel is present in at least five to ten mass channels, including Expedia/,, and others that may be relevant to your segment (e.g. if you have a boutique hotel, try and get listed on Splendia, Tablethotels, MrandMrsSmith etc).”

Sound advice. And any good online booking system should allow you to connect with multiple channels (albeit for a fee). As Pedro Colaco concludes: “Hotels need to have a multi-channel, digital marketing strategy, so as to avoid any kind of dependence on any one service for online revenue. They also need to have a digital presence that safeguards them from other companies having too much power over them, one that guarantees that they are sought out by potential clients no matter on what search engine they use for search. Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer.”

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3 thoughts on “ Friend or foe?

  1. We have used for 2 years since we opened and our business has grown at quite a rate, partly due to exposure through them. We do get repeat business (one came for one night and stayed every week for 6 months so well worth £10 commission). As far as I know, has never published a direct link to us. However, any guest who has a little internet savvy will find you by a simple name/location search, and many do. Be careful that do not start adding options e.g. evening meal, for which they would also get commission. I quickly complained and it was withdrawn without hesitation. I have never bothered about page rankings. If you are good (we are rated as exceptional) then potential guests find you as they search by rating not by who is top of the page. Pay 20% by all means but I suggest you improve customer satisfaction first.

  2. All though have changed standard confirmation so you don’t get customer info (to limit contact) you can request all booking information online so can get email etc that way !!!

  3. Since my last comment, our business has grown and ratio direct bookings v has increased significantly. I never pay more than 15% commission. Got a score of 9.8 from 80+ reviews so quality counts. Customer info is always available on their booking details in our account so can phone or email if need be. Not sure what previous reply meant by no customer info. One thing I do not understand, despite our high scores, is how the scores are arrived at. Anyone any ideas? Also support service is good. We dropped because they were rubbish all round. Best of all, get online booking on your own website and pay less or no commission!

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