Quite recently, we talked about the fact that growth in direct online hotel bookings seems to be outpacing bookings with online travel agents. At this stage, unsurprisingly perhaps, these direct bookings tend most often to be with the big hotel chains. But as travellers become more and more comfortable with booking accommodation online (and more cost conscious), it doesn’t seem implausible to suggest that smaller properties, like B&Bs, will reap the benefits too (as long as their websites are well set up for it.)
Online travel booking got going in the mid-1990s. Fuelled by an unprecedented economic boom and an explosion in cheap consumer credit, it flourished at an incredible rate for the next 10 – 12 years. In recent times, however, the combination of a huge banking crisis, a sovereign debt crisis and economic slowdown in China has resulted in significantly more sluggish growth. None the less, it still accounts for a third of the global travel market.
As reported by EyeForTravel, there was a big marketing, mobile and social media conference (read: digital bun fight) held in Amsterdam the other day. Attendees included four of the world’s biggest travel brands: Disney, KLM, Expedia and the Wyndham hotel group. They talked about how to get customers to your website and how to encourage them to book direct with you. Some of what they said was couched in the usual dismal marketing-speak (e.g. your website should be “platform and browser agnostic”, which just means that it should work on mobiles and different types of browser, like Firefox and Chrome.)
Yes, OTAs are incredibly popular. But, as online reputation management company Revinate points out, they’re often the travel equivalent of Yellow Pages. Customers are initially using them to just research hotels’ rates and availability, without actually booking on them. If you can establish a social media relationship with customers at this point, you could still encourage them to book with you direct.