NEW YORK—Brand.com continued as the fastest growing booking channel but online travel agencies reported the largest increases in average daily rate during the third quarter of 2011, according to TravelClick’s North American Distribution Review.
Bookings on the hotel-direct websites increased 6.1% from the prior year. One out of every four roomnights are now booked through a hotel website, according to the study.
The North American Distribution Review comprises transient data collected in 25 major North American markets, representing 202 million annual roomnights and US$27 billion in annual room revenue.
“Brand.com increasing share has been a phenomenon that’s been going on for quite some time. It was more pronounced probably three-plus years ago, but it still has gradually grown its share over time relative to the others,” Tim Hart, executive VP, business intelligence solutions for TravelClick, said.
The growth of brand.com as a booking channel represents both increased investment and effort from the part of hotel brands, and the fading popularity of the voice channel, he said.
Hart urged not to draw broad conclusions from the data about changes in overall booking behavior.
“I believe the story is more often a story of which customer segments are strong or weak relatively and what does that mean for channel mix because different customer segments book differently,” he said. “It can sometimes look like the mass of customers out there are preferring one channel over the other. … there’s just a different mix of the types of travelers who book in their normal, usual ways that can explain an apparent overall shift in channels.”
Bookings via global distribution systems are showing strength, as well, especially because some pundits years ago predicted the end of the segment with the emergence of more online booking channels. GDS bookings are actually growing, Hart said, which is a reflection of a return of corporate travel during the past 12 months.
Likewise, retail customers moving from voice to brand.com is much more pronounced than it is in other segments because the retail segment has been more robust during the past year, he said.
OTA gaining rate
Bookings made via OTAs also are growing. More importantly, Hart said, the channel is reporting the highest growth in average daily rate—a development that marks a win for sellers and suppliers.
“Even in a growing demand environment where demand is stronger … the OTAs are still playing a role growing their business that they’re delivering to their hotels, but the hotels in that environment are limiting the discounting more, driving higher ADR in the lowest ADR channel to a much greater degree and being able to drive rate in that channel better to a greater extent than elsewhere,” he said.
ADR increased approximately 4% across all channels during the third quarter. For the OTA channel specifically, ADR was up closer to 12% year over year.
Room Key’s impact
When asked how the introduction of Room Key—which offers the ability to search, shop and compare hotel rooms from all of the major brands and still allow consumers to book direct—will impact the distribution landscape, Hart said it is still too early to tell.
However, he did offer a logical prediction.
“They have an aspiration,” he said. “If they succeed in their aspiration then perhaps that will start to show in the numbers.”