Opening a hotel? Give all your distribution to online agencies

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Here’s a comment that is likely to make the hairs stand on end of many a hotelier and critics of online travel agencies.

“If I was starting a hotel from scratch, I’d give all my distribution to OTAs and just concentrate on the guest and their experience.”

That was the feedback from David Turnbull, chief commercial officer and co-founder of SnapShot, during a recent discussion about the power (helpful or otherwise) of OTAs.

Speaking at the Seize Opportunity In Disruption conference for hotels in London last week, Turnbull argues that the role of OTAs can be a vital one for filling a property, especially small independent hotels.

His idea is that the amount of time, effort and resources that hotels spend “trying to claw back direct bookings isn’t doing the guest any favours”.

“As long as the guest is happy with their stay (regardless of how they booked), they are good.”

Such a strategy could work for independents, those trying to get off the ground, Turnbull says.

Hotels could be “better off” investing in improving the guest experience, he adds, with the associated and knock-on effect of word-of-mouth kicking in.

This is where indies, in particular, get as much as 40% of their so-called brand visibility via friend and family or reviews.

Ensuring the guest experience is up to scratch can come in a number of ways beyond the obvious human customer service, Turnbull argues.

“They would need to focus technology to understand its data around the guest, rather than reservation.”

This means collecting and analysing both static and real-time data points around a guest’s stay.

Information should then be integrated and shared around relevant staff members so that they are “empowered to improve the guest experience”, he adds.

It sounds a little too easy and binary to entirely offload to a third party such an important element of a hotel’s mechanism for getting guests.

Yet, with the giant OTAs in the shape of Booking.com and Expedia having an ability to drive volume, as many hoteliers (often reluctantly) recognise, perhaps relinquishing power to drive awareness and establish early high capacity is a tactic worth considering.

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