This morning The Direct Booking Summit: Americas once again opened its doors for the smartest minds in the hospitality industry. Delegates from across the US, Canada and the Caribbean joined us in The Statler in Dallas to discuss the current challenges they face and share their best practices for continuing to drive direct.
Day 1 of the Summit offered participants an agenda packed with keynote speeches and panel discussions. The program was built on three major pillars: Distribution, Marketing and Technology.
Distribution in focus
Calvin Anderson, Chief of Revenue Optimization at RLH Corporation, set an energetic tone for the first day of the Summit. Calvin's lively keynote speech woke us up and got us focused on the modern consumer's conversion path. Singing the praises of data visualization tools such as Tableau, Calvin warned hoteliers in the audience of the dangers of "putting data in a box."
"It's a massive mistake to roll up your entire OTA performance into one line on your P&L," Calvin explained. "Every single OTA has multiple different levers and pricing management systems. Understand and analyse each channel in the way the customer experiences it."
Calvin was followed by our first panel discussion on the potentials of different acquisition channels - a topic that stole the show at our Amsterdam summit (you can watch Starwood's Joe Pettigrew deliver his talk on the subject here). Our industry experts - Dan Towvim, Senior Director, eCommerce at Sonesta, Ryan MacDonald, Director of Revenue Management & eCommerce at Palm Holdings, Kelsey Miller, Corporate Director of Digital Marketing at Woodside Hotel Group and Sanovnik Destang, Executive Director at Bay Garden Resorts – discussed their best practices for identifying user preferences on various channels, including OTAs, and using that to drive hotel revenue. The conversation was moderated by Loren Gray, Founder and CEO of Hospitality Digital Marketing.
On the subject of everyone's love/hate company - Google - Sonesta's Dan Towvim raised a smile. "I welcome our Google overlords," laughed Dan. "They are very clearly carving off a bigger chunk of travel, but everything that they’ve done so far in other verticals has been toward driving traffic and getting us to pay for our click. If that booking still comes to me direct I’m okay. I own the guest, that relationship is still with me."
Jim Rozell, Founder and CEO of Hotel Compete, followed the panel with a speech revealing his top tips on how to develop a competitive set analysis. “If you don’t understand how your rates and prices are described versus how your competitors describe theirs, you’ve got a problem," Jim cautioned hoteliers.
Next on stage: a timely panel on the current state of metasearch featuring the industry’s leading players: Adrian Hands, Senior Director Key Accounts EMEA and Americas, TripAdvisor; Jay Hubbs, Senior Vice President of eCommerce, Remington Hotels; Gil Harel, Head of Strategic Partnerships Hotels & Content, Skyscanner; and Ted Schweitzer, Former Senior Vice President, Digital Commerce & Media, La Quinta Holdings.
"Previously it was thought that meta would be in trouble due to the growth of mobile," explained Skyscanner's Gil. "Meta traditionally hasn't had a great mobile user experience. We wanted to make sure we were foregrounding that experience.
"Now we do direct booking - we have stores within the Skyscanner platform that look like you're shopping with the advertiser, but the booking takes place on our site. We've just gone live with Hyatt, and IHG is next."
Rounding off the distribution section of our agenda was a panel on the state of the hotel-OTA relationship. Our speakers were James Gancos, CEO & Founder, Guestbook Rewards Inc.; Bernard Tan, Vice President Revenue and Distribution Management, VRI Americas; Johnathan Capps, Vice President of Revenue, Charlestowne Hotels; and Alan Gonzalez, Group Director of eCommerce & Distribution, Warwick Hotels and Resorts. Moderated by Raheel Moolji, Vice President Revenue Management at Remington Hotels, the discussion revealed that rate parity is as big an issue as ever - but there's plenty that hotels are doing about it.
"The third party is here to stay," asserted VRI Americas' Bernard Tan. "The question is, 'how do we want to use them?'
"I have my individual revenue people split by region, and they work with our OTA market managers to make sure they are drawing on their intel. Individual relationships like that are very critical."
Stay tuned for more from the Direct Booking Summit on the topics of Marketing and Revenue!
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