Last week, I wrote an article for HotelNewsNow.com, "The fallout from an OTA lockout," that basically said hotels in Columbus, Georgia, are holding up pretty well following their delisting from the sites of online travel companies like Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline.com.
I guess what I should add is that they are holding up pretty well—for now.
Our data here at Smith Travel Research shows that Columbus saw smaller year-over-year declines in occupancy, average daily rate, and revenue per available room than the U.S. in general, and had a higher occupancy percentage to boot.
But another study completed earlier this year by Columbus State University in Georgia puts Columbus’ OTA development in an entirely new perspective.
According to Dr. Andres Jauregui and Dr. Kirk Heriot, the city’s lockout from the OTA sites cost Columbus quite a bit of money in the time period from June 2008 (when the lockout started) until June 2009. Among their findings:
• The lockout has cost the city a total of US$18.6 million in direct and indirect revenues;
• hotels have lost US$9.3 million in hotel bookings;
• the city has lost US$1.4 million in hotel-related taxes and more than US$573,000 in sales tax; and
• a total of US$8.3 million in retail sales have occurred outside the city as a result of the delisting, the study alleges.
When I contacted him this week, Heriot said he and his colleague would not comment on the story.
Still, the numbers, if accurate, speak for themselves. It’s hard for me to imagine hoteliers in Columbus will continue to maintain their numbers over the long term, though I have been wrong before and probably will be again someday.
Add to the removal of the hotels from OTAs the fact that the industry is still in the midst of a big downturn, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster in Georgia.
Given the animosity I sensed on both sides when I was doing my interviewing for the piece, it’s also hard for me to imagine this is going to be resolved anytime soon. So I suppose the Columbus Marriott, La Quinta Inn Columbus Midtown and other hoteliers in the area are going to have to keep up their magic act for a while longer.