We used to have this big old yellow book, filled with telephone numbers of people and companies, listed for easy reference from A to Z. This was a fantastic book to page through if you were trying to find your new heartthrob’s number, or better yet, their actual physical address. Companies were listed in bold, standing out easily. We didn’t have to ask Google or search on Waze; we weren’t sent via three different decoys with twenty two pop-up distractions to find (or not) what we were looking for. All it took was a lick of the index finger, solid knowledge of alphabet order, and ‘voila’, the hunt was over. Want to order flowers for gran, book a doctor’s appointment or check if your dry cleaning was ready? Just a lick and a couple page flicks and this yellow-paged informer would oblige.
You may think I’m daft but I’m not kidding when I say things were easier.
Let me pose this question: when you last booked yourself a hotel room, did it take you just two minutes and three clicks? No. Precisely what I thought. The hotel inventory space has become a hotly contested arena, one that third party booking companies have driven with ferocity and big, fat budgets. Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, SafariNow, Hotels.com, that nice lady on the telly from Trivago, even Google itself – all fiercely contending for top spot on the list. The result? One very confused and anxious accommodation shopper, with fifteen browser tabs open. What if I can find it cheaper? Should I download the app? There’s five people looking at the same room right now, oh my! Sound familiar?
Having clients in the hotel industry, and recently having schlepped through the accommodation booking minefield, I researched to test the waters. My research question: Where can I get the best rate on a hotel booking? The resounding answer: Directly from the hotel.
Did you know that:
- Third party booking websites (also called OTAs) such as Booking.com and Hotels.com can charge a commission of up to 30% on each booking?
- OTAs spend millions on Google AdWords and Search Engine Optimisation? That’s how they jostle their way to the top of the list.
- Many booking websites and apps are owned by the same company? Expedia Group, for example, owns Expedia, Hotels.com, HomeAway, Trivago, Orbitz, Travelocity and Hotwire.
- You are attractive data to these big digital giants! They will pursue you with marketing campaigns long after you’ve closed all those tabs.
So what is the solution? You may have noticed a recent surge from larger hotel groups in ‘book directly’ campaigns – 10% off here, 7% off there – for booking directly via their website. Hotel management companies have realised that they can offer guests a more appealing deal while minimising third party commissions – and that’s a win-win booking for them too.
But they are punching way above their search engine weight in terms of search page rankings. So how do they get you, the booker, to forgo shopping around and go direct?
There is a promising trend of ‘woke’ (is that really a word?) guests taking the direct route, circumventing third parties, scrolling further down the screen and requesting a hotel’s direct phone number or e-mail address and booking themselves through social feeds. Good thinking on their part. Any smart revenue manager will have trained reservation staff to ‘bag the booking’ by extending the best deal to the guest.
We must rely on this awakening to sweep across the globe as more and more people (hopefully!) realise they are being baited and hoodwinked, once again, by the heavyweights.
Do yourself a favour. Next time you are in the market for a hotel room, contact the hotel directly. You will be surprised what deal you can strike, just by asking.