Asia-Pacific, the world’s largest regional travel market, is arguably also its most exciting. An influx of visitors, especially from China, means there are opportunities aplenty for ambitious hoteliers. But competition is tough, with new businesses emerging all the time seeking to capitalize on this wave of demand.
So what’s it like to run a hotel in this intense environment? To find out, we spoke to Preeyanuj Chawla, Executive Assistant Manager at Adelphi Forty-Nine, a hotel and serviced apartments comprising 86 one-bedroom suites in downtown Bangkok. Chawla, who recently became a Triptease customer, talks effective direct booking benefits, OTA undercutting and the rise of Airbnb.
Where do your bookings come from?
We receive about 60%-plus from OTAs and around 10% from the hotel website. The rest are all offline.
What changes have you noticed at your hotel in recent years?
When this hotel was built in 2015, it was designed to cater for Japanese corporate clientele aged 28-50. Recently, we’ve seen a growth of FIT (free, independent travelers) Chinese couples aged 25-35, who love eateries around the Thonglor area of Bangkok. We’ve seen an increase in our online booking platform, whether the business comes through OTAs or the hotel website, and a decrease in offline bookings. From advertising through magazines and flyers, we’ve changed all our businesses to online. We no longer use offline media to promote our hotel. We had to build the hotel’s Weibo account to cater to our Chinese clients and added 2 more languages on our website in order to attract more customers.
What is your typical day like?
A normal day at work will include reading customer reviews, responding to customers, checking the rate parity on different websites, and increasing and decreasing rates depending on the daily occupancy. The most enjoyable element of my job is dealing with customers. Hospitality is my passion and communicating with customers is definitely my favorite part.
What challenges do you face?
Being the head of sales and marketing I receive a lot of complaints from my offline clients regarding online rates. My rate parity complaints are through the roof on a daily basis. Every month I also have to compare my production report, which shows where most of my bookings come from, and see if it matches with the budget we set at the beginning of the year. The most challenging part is direct bookings through our hotel website. It’s always below our budget as compared to OTAs, which always take our market share.
Which OTAs do you work with?
We work with all the major OTAs like Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, Rakuten, and HotelTravel.
What is your relationship with OTAs like?
We have a good relationship with all our partners. We meet up with them on a monthly basis to go through which campaigned work and which didn’t.
How big a priority are direct bookings for you and why?
In recent years, we’ve seen the numbers of customers booking online increasing, hence we are really trying to gain more through our hotel website to save us commission and offer better benefits to our customers.
Have you had any success with direct booking campaigns?
In 2017 we tried providing our customers with BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) passes, which turned out to be very popular! Our direct booking increased by 70% year-on-year.
Do you think your customers understand the benefits of booking direct?
We’ve had a hard time measuring that. We face a lot of rate parity issues with our OTAs as they are undercutting their own commission to provide better rates to the customers. At the end of the day, all our customers want is the cheapest rates and sometimes we are not able to provide that.
What region-wide trends are you keeping an eye on?
Hotels are suffering from the arrival of Airbnb. In 2017 the number of visitors to Thailand grew compared to 2016, but half of those customers are booking Airbnbs instead of hotels.
What other changes have you noticed across the region?
I’ve noticed that a lot of the hotels are really pushing hard for direct bookings. Half of the Google ads that I see are hotels. Hotels are playing up their distinctive features in advertising hoping to steal clients from rivals.
What one piece of advice would you give to other hoteliers in the region?
I’ve noticed for a really long time that all the hotels seem to panic and drop their rates when it’s the low season. But when the customers aren’t coming, they aren’t coming! Dropping your rates really low won’t gain you any market share at all. In fact, it’s bad for you in the long run as you won’t be able to increase it later as customers are really price sensitive. Once you’ve lowered your rates, you can’t expect the same customers to book when you’ve increased them.
Why did you decide to work with Triptease?
I heard of Triptease some time ago and have joined multiple webinars. Its products are the newest on the market and are sure to help me increase my direct bookings. It’s user friendly and I don’t need to change my website or my booking engine in order to integrate as well which makes it even better.
How would you describe your experience with Triptease so far?
So far I’ve been really impressed with Triptease. Being in a fast-paced industry, I love it when all my enquiries are responded to within hours.
What are you hoping to get from your relationship with Triptease?
I certainly hope to increase my direct bookings! I’m sure the Parity insights and Front Desk will be a big positive change for my website and my customers’ experience.
Interested in the Asia-Pacific market? You might want to check out these posts too:
- How hotels can win in Asia part 1: Successful social proof
- Spotlight on... Direct Bookings: Asia-Pacific
- The tech that will bring Chinese visitors to your hotel
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