We’re all aware things are moving at warp speed in the hotel and travel distribution space—so fast it’s almost impossible to keep tabs on every tool that’s being introduced and every new strategy that flaunts success. Google Travel, Room Key, Hotel Tonight, Verified Reviews, Distribution Study Reports, Global Hotel Exchange, blah, blah, blah … the list goes on and our minds keep spinning trying to make sense of it all.
The other day, in fact, I read this headline: “Google on its way to control most online travel purchases?” Now, I love Google products and we’ve written a ton during the past year about how the company’s foray into travel search will affect hoteliers’ distribution strategies, but it ain’t the end of the world, people. Pump the brakes. No single company is going to become a monopoly on selling hotel rooms; travelers always are going to have myriad options depending on the best solution for each individual.
Google, Room Key and Hotel Tonight, among others, are truly creating unique, user-friendly ways for travelers to search, compare and purchase hotel rooms.
Google’s Hotel Finder is in a great position because it’s the most relevant of all the products. Who doesn’t start their search for travel—whether it be vacation or business—on Google? If all of your flight and hotel options appear right there at the top of your search results, sortable by price, how much easier could it get? However, the product still requires some tweaking: The polygon tool is a bit too “geometry class,” and I still have to go to TripAdvisor to see some solid reviews before booking.
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Launched Wednesday, Room Key is the hotelier’s best friend because there really is no third party involved, which will allow the operating team to keep commissions low. And it’s good for us frequent travelers because we can still collect and redeem loyalty points when we book directly with the brands. But in the end it’s going to compete with all of the other sites out there—meta-searches and online travel agents alike—to grab the traveler’s eyeballs.
The point is: Having all these options is a good thing for the industry. You want to be part of all of them. But none of them should completely flip upside-down what you do for a living, which is work as part of a giant team to help provide a safe, clean, comfortable, affordable room for someone who is away from home.
Even if what you do for a living is manage how your company’s hotel rooms are sold, there is no reason to panic or start making rash decisions. These companies aren’t going away anytime soon. If you aren’t listed in Hotel Finder’s booking window, take your time to research some data and see if it is cost-effective for you. STR (our parent company) and HotelNewsNow.com have some great reports planned in the coming months that will help you with those decisions. Evaluate the returns you will get from spending money with Google or Hotel Tonight or any other channel for that matter, and determine the right percentage of your inventory to list and the right price at which to do so.
It’s oversimplifying a revenue manager’s job, sure, but sometimes that’s what we need to do—stop and take a deep breath. Too many hoteliers, too many headlines, are claiming a new product is the be-all, end-all savior for simplifying hotel online distribution. The reality is: As the Internet continues to provide a platform for ubersmart creative types to play and build, travelers are going to have more and more options by which to search and book.
As hoteliers, you have to determine which channels represent your hotel best, which drive the best business to your front desk, and then you have to act appropriately. It’s a time-consuming, numbers-crunching, data-intensive job, but luckily we have thousands of zealous hospitality experts who love doing it on a daily basis.
Email Jason Q. Freed or find him on Twitter.
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