The Case for Direct Bookings
I am a big believer in the whole idea of “work smarter, not harder.” So when I am banking, traveling, or ordering dim sum from that place down the street (mmm dumplings), I utilize any service that saves me time and removes complications. If there’s an app for that, you better believe that I have that app, and if there isn’t an app, then there better be a mobile website. Yes, I am a millennial. I grew up with a computer, raised a Tamagotchi to adulthood, and completed The Oregon Trail video game without ever once coming down with cholera.
While I might be biased, I believe that millennials are moving the economy forward; cutting out middlemen, streamlining business, and creating disruptive technologies. But, and yes there is a but, technology is not always the answer. In the world of hospitality, and more specifically in the world of hotel bookings, the constraints put on the industry by the tech giants of the OTA world, are actually hurting the hotel ecosystem.
Hotels are reporting bullying practices from the OTAs that include dictating what must be featured on a hotel’s website, how a property can communicate with their guests, and even publishing misleading rates on their websites. As cries of opposition grow louder from hoteliers who feel taken advantage of, so does the case for direct bookings.
When bookings are made through an OTA, hotels find themselves responsible for paying fees upwards of 25% of booking revenue leaving hoteliers with less money to invest in upgrading their property or training their staff. Many hotels are being forced to raise their rates simply to recoup the amount of revenue lost to commission fees, a move that hurts travelers too.
While the exposure properties gain from OTAs is undeniable, many hoteliers are beginning to ask themselves if the pleasure is worth the pain. A growing movement in the travel world, spurred by these unethical practices, is encouraging travelers to eschew the shiny discounts featured on Expedia and…gasp…book directly. As it turns out, booking directly was the best way to book all along.
So what exactly are the benefits to booking directly if you are a traveler?
Specific room offerings
When booking anywhere else, travelers aren’t given an option of specific rooms to choose from. However, booking directly allows you to request a room with a view, a corner room, or whatever else your little heart may desire.
More rooms available
Agreements between hotels and OTAs not only focus on rates, but also on the number of rooms that an OTA is actually allowed to sell. That means that if the website you are trying to book through has already reached it allocated capacity, then it will indicate that the hotel is fully booked. In actuality, there might be a number of rooms for the same price available through the hotel. All you have to do is call.
Haggling for upgrades/perks
Because hotels lose so much of their revenue to commission fees, they view a direct booking favorably, and are more likely to reward it by throwing in a free breakfast, bottle of wine, or even a room upgrade. This, of course, isn’t always the case, but it never hurts to ask.
When booking through an OTA or metamediary, travelers aren’t given any options besides the price level/type of room that they are booking. When booking through a hotel directly you can request a non-smoking, dog-friendly, or handicapped accessible room.
More and more, technology is taking the personal interaction out of traveling. Some brands allow you to breeze by check-in and unlock your room with an app. These days, you could go an entire weekend without speaking to anyone in the hotel. While this may seem like a perk for those of you who are more introverted or simply annoyed by other people, lack of personal contact isn’t always a good thing when something goes wrong. If you have a problem with your room, or simply have a special request, an established connection with someone down at the front desk always works out in your favor.
Social media for contests/opinions/experiences
Choosing to interact with a brand directly also gives travelers the chance to engage in a conversation with the the hotel and with other travelers on social media. Hospitality brands will often use their social media pages to announce contests, closeout deals, or special promotions that you might not otherwise know were going on. Furthermore, it gives travelers a resource, a platform to interact with other travelers who have already visited the property. Sometimes you can find the most honest reviews on social media, and people who are eager to share their photos or recommendations for can’t miss activities.
If you are a hotel, how are you encouraging your guests to book directly? If you are a traveler, what kind of situations have lead you to choose to book one way or another? What can a hotel do that might incentivize you to book directly with them?