I have got a chance to help the hotel team with their marketing efforts. I spent times doing research to understand their terminologies so I didn’t look silly during the process. The more I learn about this industry, the more I feel there are a lot of opportunities to disrupt how the marketing is done.
The major challenge for all hoteliers is OTAs (Online Travel Agents) like Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda. They are like a large shopping center that sells similar product. People of course like to go there because it’s a one stop shop. You can compare prices and there are so many options. Furthermore, those OTAs have invested excessively in technology. They offer a very good personalised experience. Hotels have a love-hate relationship with OTAs. Hotels have to rely on them, pay high commission, and don’t get full control of their own booking data. Worst of all, OTAs drive the room rates down due mainly to a competitive force.
It’s a common knowledge and practice that all hotels want direct bookings. The influence from OTAs is great to the level that hotels can’t even set different prices on their websites. They have to stick to this illusive ‘rate parity’. They are afraid to get punished from those OTAs. Another funny thing about the influence of OTAs is all hotels must have a revenue management team – big or small. This team’s job is to do research about competitors’ rates and customer demand. They then adjust prices up and down depending on the research information. Some hotels put the revenue management function ahead of other functions to drive bookings. And, I don’t really understand this logic. Price is important but you also need to give good reasons to customers to consider your price and to see that your price give good value. By good value, I don’t mean cheap rates.
The marketing function in this industry is quite secondary. I have amused when I learnt about this fact. It is a battle that I intend to take from now. It wouldn’t be easy when OTAs have trained customers to look for the cheap or discounted rates. And, it wouldn’t be easy when the hotels respond to this OTA challenge by focusing on revenue management side.
That’s why it’s intriguing and I am excited to change that.