Isabelle Pinson, Expedia group senior director of Market Management for the UK and Ireland speaks out over the recent study that emerged from Welcome Computer Systems, which found hoteliers are still divided over OTAs.
I was interested to read (Boutique Hotelier 19 Feb 2015) how new research has revealed that small hotel owners are falling into passionate love/hate relationships with online travel agencies (OTAs).
Working for one of the world’s largest, I’d like to think that for the majority of hotel owners it’s more about love than hate, but our challenge is to win over the doubters by demonstrating how partnering with an OTA can add real value to those who operate in the independent sector.
From Expedia’s standpoint, we want those partnerships to be win-win; they have to be if they’re to be successful and profitable for both parties, and I know that the majority of our independent hotel partners, particularly those with limited technology and marketing budgets, acknowledge our ability to give them global reach when trying to attract new guests.
Every year we invest millions of pounds in technology and marketing in order to help our independent and chain hotel partners tap into the growing international visitor market. Localised website content and the ongoing development of new, sophisticated mobile apps to enable travellers to easily find and book a hotel, are just two examples of how we are opening up a whole world of opportunity.
Whether remote or boutique, independents in the UK that once welcomed guests from only the domestic market and maybe the near continent – France, Holland, Germany – now have visitor books signed by people from as far away as China, Brazil, and Australia.
And these people are technologically savvy, and will have on their mobile devices – smart phones and tablets – the sort of OTA apps that enable them to research new destinations, find the flight and hotel that suits their needs, book and share their experience afterwards – all in their local language and with their local currency.
At the same time, when hotels need to fill rooms with a particular type of guest and at a certain time, OTAs can work with them to develop a targeted promotional campaign which leverages the huge amount of booking data they have access to as a result of our partnership with them.
It’s important to point out, too, that there’s no return on all this investment of ours until partner hotels receive a booking. It’s also the point at which our technology and marketing weight has obviously been proved to work, having attracted for our partner a new guest, and someone who without our involvement may not have discovered that hotel.
I constantly meet with hotels who regard Expedia as a strategic and valuable partner, working with us in sophisticated ways to increase their occupancy and to drive rates. Developing a true partnership like this can bring real value to the smaller, independent hotel.