Reaping the benefits of online booking channels sounds appealing until you hit the Google search button. The vast volume of results leave most people feeling intimidated or exhausted before they even click ‘Next’.
As the online inventory and availability distribution hub, ResRequest plays a key role in working with our channel and technology partners and customers to identify online booking options that clients can embrace, turning this online challenge into an exciting opportunity.
To help you kickstart your blueprint to success, we have identified the online booking options available to you, their pitfalls, successes and general industry trends.
Your website. Your investment in a great web design is to excite customers about your product and lead them to buy. Once your customer has made a commitment to purchase, they ask for price and availability, which culminates in a sale. For this reason close to 90% of our clients proactively engage in showing rates and availability on their website.
Luxury / remote lodges are less confident of the value of creating bookings and processing credit cards directly from their website. Reasons for look-to-book reluctance includes fears that guests will not be able to arrange complicated transfers. In addition lodges are concerned that automating bookings sidesteps the value of building a relationship between the customer and their product. To top these concerns, many lodges are wary of how partner agents may react to them openly targeting the direct market.
As a result of all these concerns, we see a more cautious approach to creating bookings online, resulting in clients favouring availability displays with an easy-to-use enquiry form.
However, over the last year we have seen an increase in creating bookings with close to 5% of our clients implementing this functionality on their website. We believe that, even though lodge consumers may continue to need personal interaction with reservation offices or agents, over the next 2 years online bookings will become an expected norm from direct and travel trade.
Your business partners. Over time, marketing groups have formed with the objective of stimulating travel in niche markets. Some of these groups are commercial ventures, while others are informal associations born from like-minded neighbouring properties. This year saw an increase in interest for marketing groups and regional availability, where independent / neighbouring properties are interested in publishing availability on a collaborative web-page. Approximately 5% of our clients now participate in this type of online channel. This is a market sector that is growing in popularity and benefits both direct guests and travel trade.
Specialist agents. Ask any agent or tour operator and they will tell you that a large portion of their success is the skill with which they are able to quickly prepare a customised itinerary. Giving specialist agents access to your stock means that agents are able to prepare and respond to requests for quotations faster then their competitors. More then 70% of our clients allow agents to access stock through our agent module, with close to 3% allowing agents to create bookings.
To enable agents with their own systems to electronically extract rate and availability from multiple clients, we have developed an auxiliary product, ResConnect. Approximately 90% of our clients have established relationships with our agent partners who use ResConnect.
Mass market channels / Global Distribution Systems (GDS). Travel sites reported significant 2011 revenues: Expedia $3.45 billion, Amadeus at E2,7 billion. With revenues like these it is understandable that every hotel would love to tap into those markets. So why are lodges cautious of tapping into these very lucrative channels?
Lodges have many concerns with these channels. Concerns include the effect of boycotts by specialist travel agents and tour operators. Lodges also fear that channels will create a price war climate that will ultimately result in cheapening their products and forcing rack rates to drop. In addition lodges have logistical fears that these channels have no concern for the guest’s knowledge or ability to transfer to and from complicated, remote locations. There is also a fear that web-savvy consumers receiving an unexpected experience will complain on public forums such as Tripadvisor and Twitter, tarnishing a lodge’s reputation.
It is clear that the lodge industry have not yet understood if and how this market sector could be valuable to them. Among our clients we see 3 opinions: clients who are adamant this sector will not work for them, clients who are cautious but tempted to experiment and clients who embrace these channels as a new type of agent.
Despite these fears, this year we have seen our first 16 properties tap into these channels. Early evidence suggests that once the connection is established, marketing effort is then required to ensure that trends and product pricing align with each partner site’s requirements, to ensure that the lodge will be listed high in relevant searches.
“Where does ResRequest fit in?”
Each channel option requires a specific strategy and project plan and ResRequest is an integral part of this strategy. To demonstrate where ResRequest fits in and how you can use the online Channels available to you, we have created a Connections starter document. Please download this file for more information.
“Do the bookings roll in once I’m connected?”
A common misconception about online channels is that because they are automated, they will generate business immediately. This is a myth, marketing effort is required to manage and understand how to sell bednights effectively on each channel.
Approach this as a completely new way of promoting your product by investing in managing and understanding each connection model, and they will become exciting new opportunities to sell bed nights.
For consulting advice on setting up online channels contact our support centre: firstname.lastname@example.org