A case for openness – in distribution
There’s an article on breakingnews.ie regarding the record level of hotel occupancy in Ireland today – which got me thinking about how times have changed since the dark days of 2008/2009. Over the past few years as the industry recovered from the walloping it got, and we brushed ourselves off and in the very Irish way of things, got on with the business of living, I am reminded how I used every channel at my disposal to drive every single bed night possible for the hotels I was working with. It was a valuable lesson and one I continue to advocate today; the wider you cast your net, the better balance your business will have and the more levers you will have at your disposal to pull when needed.
In my opinion, it is the hotels who have exploited ALL channels who see the best gains, not just in peak periods where rates are optimised, but notably in troughs where base business can be acquired by multi-channel visibility.
Take the GDS – some consider this a soon to be obsolete channel, this school of thought takes into account the rise of the millennial, where 40% of travellers are booking online, a statistic predicted to be closer to 60% by 2020, so why should a hotel invest in costly and sometimes unwieldly to manage, GDS distribution? Well for sure, the GDS is not considered as straightforward to manage as others channels, but the time and effort once invested can really reap rewards in terms of delivering longer stay, high rated and market diverse business, in many cases with longer lead times associated international travellers. GDS Marketing has also reaped significant success in driving incremental and new business, when coupled with meaningful messages suited to your market and your target traveller. And don’t even start me on the fact that those millennials who work for the global multinational companies are the very ones who are booking via GDS (on their customised travel apps).
I will also advocate continued positive partnership with OTAs. Having worked closely with many major OTAs as a supplier over the years, I have seen first hand the benefits which can come from managing your relationship and your rate parity appropriately, and how using the many marketing opportunities available you can reach an audience who might otherwise not find you. Using OTA partners to enhance your business mix, amplify your voice and reach a vast and new customer base can help bolster business throughout the year. Recent studies have also found that many OTA customers while sometimes considered rate sensitive, are actually booking higher rates with greater length of stay and longer booking windows than own brand sites are delivering.
However, as important as a hotel’s own website, other third parties and the GDS is, the single most important channel to drive owned business is in my opinion, the direct sales channel. People, Faces, Names, Relationships, Professionalism and Humanity- we are at our essence a people business, we like our customers and knowing who they are, owning that relationship and developing trust and loyalty through integrity and professionalism will reap rewards long after the Wi-Fi fails.
So for me, I will continue to use all available channels at my disposal to amplify the voice of my brand and lengthen the reach, but most importantly, I will continue to value and develop my owned customer base, realising that the relationships forged here, when managed correctly, will be the cornerstone of my success in the future. Regardless of my business.