The hotel industry has witnessed enormous growth in the past two decades and most of the credit for this achievement goes to effective utilization of power of internet. Millions of properties all over the world are nowadays offering the facility of online bookings/reservations to their guests. In fact, online reservations have become a norm as travellers find it much easier to book hotels/rooms of their choice from the convenience of four walls of their homes. There are two basic ways in which one can make an online booking – booking direct with hotels and booking with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).
Online travel agencies (OTAs) have the resources and ability to provide their clients a wide range of lodging options, thus enabling them to make an informed decision after doing price and facilities comparison among various hotels. Some of the popular OTAs are Travelocity, MakeMyTrip, Expedia, Thomas Cook etc. OTAs can also provide hotel/room pictures to their clients, besides other details like best deals, prices and guest reviews. All these details make it a lot easier for travellers to select the best hotel for their needs.
Although OTAs are quite popular in the travel market, one cannot overlook the benefits associated with making direct bookings at hotel websites. Direct hotel bookings are more popular with loyal, frequent, unmanaged and leisure business travellers who focus more on the convenience and schedule adherence during their travel. While hotel websites particularly cater to this audience which demands a greater level of personalization, OTAs are appealing to other category of travellers who prefer infrequent leisure holidays at their own convenience. The latter category of travellers is more price-sensitive and takes only a few trips per year.
A survey carried out recently confirms that only 39% of overall travel sales online are closed through OTAs. The remaining 61% of hotel bookings are made directly at the hotel websites. Hence it is quite evident that the new age hotel customer is pretty smart and believes in making direct reservations without the intervention of any third party.
A large number of hotels nowadays have their own websites which have online reservation software incorporated into them, enabling people to reserve rooms in real time. With the help of such facility, hoteliers too can market their properties directly to the guests in a far better manner.
Following are some advantages associated with direct online hotel bookings:
- Hotels can increase their profits by doing away with 20% – 30% fee normally charged by third party intermediaries. They can even pass on this margin to guests, thereby increasing guest loyalty.
- Room rates can be controlled better and reservations can be increased directly from own website
- Customer experience can be better managed by following their shopping and reservation patterns. Customer satisfaction can also be increased by following up on their online feedbacks and acting upon their suggestions.
- Customers can be provided various options and incentives (including freebies at gyms, restaurants, spas and other facilities) while making online bookings.
- Guests can be provided a virtual tour of the hotel on the hotel website, thereby giving them a better idea about the actual property.
- Since the guests will have a first hand copy of the booking acknowledgement, there is no possibility of foul play at the intermediary level, especially at peak season times.
An important reason why a large majority of travellers are nowadays making reservations online is because many hotels have improved the quality of their websites significantly. The new age hotel websites have better design and navigation; some of them even have virtual tours of property available on them.