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Hotel operators and online distribution: what new strategies?

Tense relations between OTAs and hotel groups calmed down either because they had to or by choice once they took into consideration their respective strengths and contributions. What strategies are being implemented now? Are they sincere and fruitful partnerships? Hoteliers and digital players have debated over this question at the last edition of the Global Lodging Forum.

Stéphane Branque, founder Roomforday:

At Roomforday, we haven't invented anything. We were interested in an eventual need that hoteliers might have regarding the use of their rooms and meeting rooms during the day. The hotel industry has evolved and is now more focused on the notion of living space, rather than a room meant just for sleeping.

In order to sell hotel spaces by the day (room, meeting room, spa ...) we target different customer profiles. We are first and foremost interested in airport clientele and people in transit, who are often looking for meeting rooms available for half days or by the hour. Our supply also addresses local clientele, from nearby, who may wish to enjoy the spaces of a hotel near home without sleeping there. The idea is to grow out of the limited happy hour image and into the rest of the day.

Jean Luc Chrétien, Executive Vice President Marketing and Distribution, Accor:

Unlike American chains, we began working with OTAs much later. For us they are an additional distribution channal that snapped up the opportunity to go digital. Our relations with them have always been complementary, because an online distributer needs hoteliers in order to sell rooms. It must nonetheless be paid considering the enormous technological and marketing investments it makes.

OTAs make it possible to seek new customers. For us, Expedia was a formidable opportunity to reach the American market where our brands were not well known. OTAs are like medication: when occupancy rates or the RevPAR suffer you can take a dose of Booking, but an overdose would not be healthy...

Clément Eulry, Industry Head Travel, Google:

The customer buying cycle on Internet is very long. Generally there are 47 days between a customer's first search for a trip and its reservation. Google makes it possible to organize information worldwide to make it readily available to users in a pertinent manner and at the right moment. This is what we do on our hotel-dedicated platform, Hotel Finder. It posts varying results for sales that are selected to better correspond to user demand, depending on its advancement in the 47-day cycle.

Sponsored links on Google follow the same logic and also meet a pertinent criterium. Our choice is to always manage to give the buyer the best response possible.

Iscliff Lebée, Director Business Development, 

While we were once hoteliers, we realized that there was a real need concerning the sale of spaces by the day. Our problem developing our concept does not reside so much in commissioning and its acceptance by hotels, but in what the use of rooms during the day could represent. Nonetheless, hoteliers know that we fully understand communications and that we will not distrot their hotel's image.

At Dayuse, we target couples, businessmen, travelers in  transit, as well as the fashion and music industries which could have a use for this offer. To establish ourselves, we focus on cities. Finally, in terms of returns for hoteliers, we are able to increase their turnover by 15%.

Carl Oldsberg, Vice President International Operations, Choice Hotels International: 

At first we lost some control wiith OTAs, even before we became enemies. The hotel industry then realized it was important to make this relationship evolve in order to make the move from being enemies to being frenemies. The industry has also realized teh importance of investing in direct distribution, which once it is in place makes it possible to have a healthy and coherent relationship with OTAs.

In terms of investment in digital, we will never win against OTAs. The battle is lost before it has begun. It would be better for us to invest our money in direct distribution channels, especially mobile. It is important to remember we have the customers, the data, the capacities to exchange and communicate with customers, the service, and we must concentrate on these things.

Also read:

  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: advice from Paul Dubrule on becoming a serial entrepreneur
  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: promote the destination to encourage hotel development?
  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: Seven work axes of the government to encourage tourism
  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: New rules for hotel marketing according to Axel Dauchez

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