Booking.com’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 Booking.com 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 Booking.com customers into repeat, direct bookers.
There are signs, however, that Booking.com 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…
“Booking.com’s flat commission model has been replaced by one of bidding for on the first page of a destination.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: “Booking.com recently reserved the right to automatically resell a room that one of its customers has cancelled, apparently to protect the commission. Booking.com 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 Booking.com 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 theBandBer.com 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/Hotels.com, Lastminute.com, Hotels.de 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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